April 7, 2016
The 2016-17 budget being developed by the administration and Board of Education got a surprise last week: since the state budget restored $184,798 in withheld state aid, the budget proposal now has a slight surplus of $62,000.
"The budget is as promising as it has been in a long time," said Superintendent Jon Peterson. "We have been able to not only preserve existing programs but expand and enhance others."
The $17,441,753 million proposal as it now stands would increase spending by $456,605 or 2.69 percent while decreasing the tax levy by 0.66 percent. That is the state's "tax levy limit cap," under an eight-step formula. The low rate of inflation has let to low tax levy limits in most area school districts.
The Board of Education is expected to adopt a final budget at its meeting on April 19. The formal public hearing on the spending plan will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10 at the high school. The community will consider the budget proposal during voting from noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17 in the high school gymnasium lobby.
"This is very good news for our taxpayers. We are working very hard to keep taxes down while continuing to provide an excellent program for Mayfield students," added Peterson.
Since the budget was first presented on February 23, the board and administration have worked to fill the $478,000 shortfall in the first draft. District officials conducted a vigorous letter-writing and meeting campaign with state legislators, urging them to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). 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.
Since the first draft, Peterson said these actions have been taken to bring the budget plan into line:
• Reduction of a physical therapist position from full-time to three days per week because fewer students will need those services next year.
• Elimination of a part-time occupational therapist assistant because fewer services will need those services next year.
• A two percent cost increase for special education classroom rentals to BOCES
• It was discovered that Mayfield was entitled to more reimbursement from Medicaid, resulting in a $30,000 increase in projected revenue
• Lower costs across the board for materials and supplies, affecting administration, classrooms and maintenance
• Elimination of a BOCES cafeteria manager. A Mayfield head cook will assume that position next year.
• Reduction in overtime costs, as much as possible
Peterson also said budget planning was helped by two additional retirements after the first budget draft was presented. There will be four retirements at the end of the year: an elementary reading specialist and high school math teacher, English teacher and special education teacher. While all of the positions will be replaced, the newly hired employees will earn a lower salary than the retiring teachers, resulting in a budget savings.
However, one of the biggest crunches on the 2016-17 budget is the 24 percent increase in health care costs, from this year's $2.9 million to an estimated $3.6 million next year. The district is part of the FulMont Trust health care consortium, which spreads rising costs amongst its member school districts. The district has 138 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees.
The budget would expand the pre-kindergarten program for 4 year olds. Right now, there are two half-day pre-kindergarten programs; the budget proposal would add a full-day pre-kindergarten section, said Peterson. He said the current programs serve 40 students but he hopes to attract more with the full-day program.
"Pre-kindergarten is so important to get a child off on the right start in school," said Peterson. "Early literacy and numerology is critical for young learners. We are hoping that more future Mayfield students will be drawn to this important program."
He also noted that the budget proposal maintains offerings in three languages - Spanish, French and Italian - as well as all of the upper level and college-level courses now offered at Mayfield.
The community on May 17 will also be asked to approve the purchase of three vehicles that will be paid from the bus reserve fund:
• Two 66-passenger school buses at an estimated cost of $229,100
• One Suburban at an estimated cost of $45,000
Community voting on the proposed 2016-17 budget and vehicle purchases will be held from 12 noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17 in the high school gymnasium lobby.