Dundee now estimates a $548K deficit
DUNDEE—The Dundee Central School District budget for this year is $13,831,863.
According to Business Manager Melissa Lawson, that amount is currently expected to rise to $14,380,851 (a 3.97 percent increase) for 2012-13. With that financial hike, the gap amount would be $548,988.
Lawson gave an update on projections for next year’s budget during the board meeting on Thursday, March 8. Last month, DCS anticipated spending would jump to $14,424,645 (a 4.3 percent increase). That would have resulted in a gap of $592,782. However, Lawson explained several revisions were made to the spending plan which trimmed the deficit by $43,794.
One cost reduction which was factored into the 2012-13 budget was a decision not to fill a full-time special education teaching vacancy that will be created due to a retirement. Lawson said that cut would save the district $30,000. Board Member Joseph Capurso asked if eliminating the position would result in increased class sizes. He expressed concern saying while this financial saving did not result in someone being laid off, the issue still remained of this choice potentially having a negative impact on the learning atmosphere for students. Superintendent Kathy Ring stated the vacancy would lead to larger classes. However, Board Member Kristen VanValkenburg said teaching quality has the biggest impact on the education children receive. “Research shows it is instruction that matters,” VanValkenburg said.
Along with the special education position, Lawson stated the district intended to remove a full-time teaching aid job. She noted the student that instructor assisted left the school district. Getting rid of that role will narrow costs by $10,862. Lawson also indicated the amount of money going to fringe benefits (employer pension rates and medical premiums) was dropped by $3,112.
Lawson spoke about how before a final budget is presented, one important decision for the board is how high the tax levy should be increased. She touched on the two percent tax cap the state put in place for this year. The law involves school districts using an eight-step process to determine the limit on how much taxes can be levied. Despite how it is defined, Lawson noted the tax levy increase does not necessarily have to be at two percent. She added that for 2012-13, the Dundee tax levy could be raised by as much as 8.88 percent.
With regards to a potential tax levy increase, Lawson discussed how DCS is fortunate to have money in the reserve fund. With these extra finances, the remaining budget gap could be covered without having to impose a higher tax levy. Yet, she added the district needs to be mindful of running out of reserves for coming school years. With concerns about the amount of aid the state is providing to schools, running out of extra money could hurt Dundee in the future. Lawson did mention state aid for DCS is expected to increase by $246,733 for 2012-13. However, there is no guarantee of having that same luck for future spending plans.
Athletic Director Jennifer Hutches spoke about how the budget for next year could impact interscholastic sports. Despite the tight economy, Hutches expressed confidence about being able to fill schedules for teams. She mentioned one sport where the costs really went up was bowling. Ring said a possible way to handle the added burden would be having the same person coach both the girls and boys teams. Hutches said that was an idea being considered.
Lawson said the board plans to adopt a final budget on April 5. Following that, the plan is to hold a public hearing regarding the spending plan on May 1 before a final vote takes place on May 15. Ring explained so far, the district has been able to avoid making any cuts that could significantly impact students.
Regardless, the superintendent made it clear there is still plenty of work to get done before adopting a budget and tough decisions will have to be made in order to cover the deficit. She explained the board will need to decide if it is best to allocate more reserve funds at the risk of the district’s future, increase the tax levy, or cut more faculty positions and school programs. “There are important questions that remain,” Ring said.