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Penn Yan central plans to cut 18 positions

    PENN YAN—The amount currently stands at 18.4. That is how many full-time equivalent faculty positions Penn Yan Central School District anticipates will be eliminated for the 2012-13 school year. PYCSD currently employs 370 staff members. However, that number is expected to drop to 351.6 (five percent decrease) for the upcoming year.
    During the school board meeting on Wednesday, March 7, Superintendent David Hamilton explained cutting staff is part of the tough decisions that must be made due to financial constraints such as higher expenditures and lack of state aid. “This is the new normal,” said Hamilton. “This is what we are facing in the future.” The superintendent noted he did not have specifics on exactly who would be handed a pink slip. He did mention the positions being eliminated would not all necessary result in lay-offs and that factors such as people retiring can be included.
    According to Hamilton, employment reductions were the final part of the process to trim costs in order to help the district cover the financial deficit for 2012-13. The budget for the current school year is $31,305,639. Hamilton discussed how the first projections made last December indicated the budget for next year would increase by $3.3 million. He explained the first step taken to lower the gap was eliminating non-staff costs such as certain school supplies and equipment fees. Through those cuts, PYCSD was able to narrow the deficit to $1.3 million. To reduce that number further, the next measure taken was to imply a tax levy of two percent which reduced the gap to $700,000. Interim Assistant Superintendent for Business Rodger Lewis, who presented on current budget projections, touched on the two percent tax cap which the state enacted for 2012. The law dictates an eight-step formula that schools must use to calculate a tax levy limit. Lewis said the confusing thing about the legislation is the levy increase does not have to be at two percent. In fact, he mentioned, the tax levy in Penn Yan could be raised by as much as 14.2 percent for 2012-13. However, Lewis stated raising the number by more than two percent would be “suicidal” for the school district.
    After being narrowed to $700,000, Hamilton said the only feasible way to cut the gap was eliminating staff positions. He added while cuts are needed to be made, it is still necessary to be mindful of what is best for students and the long-term impacts certain decisions can have. Eliminating something such as transportation services would not be sustainable for the district. Lewis explained after including faculty reductions, the anticipated budget for 2012-13 is $31,632,500 ($321,861 increase from this year). He noted that when weighing in state, federal, and local aid which the district would receive, that would be an acceptable amount to present to the public.
    Lewis gave detail on some of the factors that resulted in the financial hike in the first place. He touched on how four areas that saw a major increase in appropriations were health insurance ($410,000 increase); negotiated salary ($340,000); retirement systems ($375,000); and heat, electricity and gasoline ($90,000). Among those four categories, the rise in cost was a combined $1,215,000.
    Another thing Lewis spoke about was revenue PYCSD is expecting to get for next year. He explained a reason why schools have had to impose more staff cuts recently is due to the freeze the state has put on educational financial aid over the past four years. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to raise the amount of aid allocated to education by four percent this year. However, out of the added $805 million coming out of the governor’s budget, only one-third will go towards unrestricted aid. The rest of the funding will go towards competitive grants and the GAP elimination adjustment (aid the state takes away from school districts to fulfill other needs). Lewis pointed out that with only part of the money going towards foundation aid, state aid for Penn Yan would increase by only $93,646 for 2012-13 from $13,203,925 this year. He added that number will be confirmed once the new state fiscal year begins on April 1.
    Along with state aid, Lewis mentioned the school district is expecting to receive $2,126,162 in local revenue. He explained that area is divided into five categories: Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) ($435,162 in revenue), miscellaneous revenue ($310,000), federal aid ($75,000), applied fund balance ($400,000), and reserves ($906,000). Within local revenue, one aspect where Lewis gave some description was PILOT. payments. In that segment, he said there was both good and bad news. The good news is PYSCD will earn an extra $64,000 because of a pipeline that goes through the village. On the other hand, the bad news related to the AES-owned Greenidge coal-fired plant in Dresden. Lewis said AES had originally been paying the school district $600,000 each year in PILOT payments. However, after closing down the plant and filing for bankruptcy, those payments from AES will be around $300,000 for 2012-13. Lewis also mentioned Penn Yan was lucky to have some money left in their reserves and some of it was used to lessen the financial hole.
    According to Lewis, the school board expects to vote on adopting the 2012-13 budget on April 4. With reductions in staff looming, he expressed concern about where overall quality in schools could be headed down the road if the state does not start providing more financial assistance. “Unfortunately, we are getting to the point where it is affecting jobs,” stated Lewis. “If this downturn continues, schools in the state will not look the way they did five years ago.”




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