February 23, 2016
Superintendent Jon Peterson told the Board of Education that his team is working on ways to plug a more than $478,000 gap in the $17.7 million budget for the 2016-17 school year that he presented tonight.
The biggest emphasis has been on convincing the governor and local legislators to help restore the $184,798 in Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) funding that will still be withheld by the state during the coming school year. GEA is funding that, under the state formula, Mayfield should receive. In 2010, the state began the GEA program as a way of filling its budget deficit each year by reducing every school district’s funding.
Because of a low rate of inflation last year, school districts across the state are being held to a low or negative tax levy increase in the 2016-17 school year. After going through the state’s eight-step tax levy cap formula, Peterson said, Mayfield will be allowed to raise $48,000 less in taxes that it did this school year – a cut of 0.66 percent to the tax levy.
School districts are allowed to exceed their tax levy limits with a 60 percent approval vote by the community. Peterson said the Board of Education wasn’t interested in exceeding the state’s cap. A 1 percent increase in the tax levy adds $72,700 to the district’s budget.
“The first draft looks grim. We have a decreasing tax levy and the state is still holding back $184,000 (in GEA funding). That has put us in a tough spot where our revenues will have to increase in some way or there will be cuts,” said Peterson.
Peterson said the district is pleased that the Senate Republicans have already indicated that they want the GEA restored for all school districts in the state in the next state budget; the preliminary budget presented by Governor Andrew Cuomo in January still included the $184,798 GEA charge-back for Mayfield.
The board will meet next on March 15 to discuss the budget. According to the state constitution, the state budget must be approved by April 1. Mayfield expects to adopt its 2016-17budget on April 19. The public hearing on the budget proposal will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10.
The district has formed a Presidential Committee – the presidents of the three labor unions, the board president and the superintendent. Among other ideas, the group has embarked on a letter-writing campaign aimed at restoring the full GEA for Mayfield. The first letter was sent to Cuomo, Senator Hugh Farley and Assemblyman Mark Butler. He is scheduled to lobby the legislators on March 8.
“Mayfield Central School, like all public schools in the great State of New York, did our part for those 6 years of the GEA by making the difficult, fiscally responsible decisions while New York was in the red,” the letter reads. “Mayfield has lost $7,577,945 in state aid to the GEA. We appropriated reserves and fund balance, adopted tax levies under the cap, increased average class size and eliminated or reduced educational programs for our students. Since 2010, the elimination or reduction of programs at Mayfield Central School has meant the elimination of 18 full time positions and the reduction of 7 others to part time.”
Read the full letter here (PDF).
In addition, budget subcommittees have met over the past nearly two months that include administrators, supervisors, board members and the district treasurer to “to talk about some things that we could do to deliver similar services to what we have now but at a lower cost. Also, if the money is there, what are some wish-list things that they may like to see.”
Peterson discussed other possible means of raising revenue, including raising tuition for the 40 students who attend Mayfield but do not live in the school district. Right now, they pay $1,000 per year to attend the school district. He said the suggestion to raise tuition was not supported by Board of Education members.
The district will also re-evaluate what it charges to rent spaces, primarily for BOCES classes, will seek grants for some expenditures and will need to get health insurance costs under control as it negotiates expiring contracts with the administrators and professional staff. Health insurance costs are projected to rise by 24 percent in the coming school year. The district has 138 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees.
Peterson also said the district may explore putting more of its fund balance into the budget to help fill the gap. In the current school year, the district was able to add $910,000 from fund balance to balance the budget and keep taxes down.
“If we can’t get an increase in revenue, then we will have to decrease expenditures,” he said, noting that his budget proposal replaces three teacher retirements but perhaps all three wouldn’t be replaced.
“We will look to eliminate things like overtime and cut expenditures in some areas,” he said. The district is also looking at shared services either through another school district or BOCES.
While he hopes it doesn’t get to cutting classes, programs or staff, that is a possibility. “We would have to look at what is mandated and what isn’t mandated and what is non-negotiable with the community,” he said. “We will work with the community in part through the people we have in-house. They live here and can give us a good read on the community’s thoughts and feelings.”