Penn Yan School budget cut more, tax levy increase still 9.49 percent

Gwen Chamberlain
Several people turned out for the Penn Yan School Board meeting and the public budget forum last week. Another budget forum will be held March 2 at 3:30 p.m. in the Middle School auditorium.

Penn Yan School officials continue to slash the school district’s budget while school board members keep looking for a middle ground where costs can be minimized without impacting programs.

The latest round of cuts to the spending plan brought the projected tax levy increase down to 9.49 percent to cover a $1.49 million budget gap. That’s nearly $2 million less than the gap in the last version of the budget.

To get to this point, administrators have:

• Cut 18.5 positions (11 through retirements) This brings the total positions eliminated over the past two years to 34.5.

• Reduced supplies and materials district-wide

• Reworked debt service

• Use reserves from the Employee Retirement System (ERS) fund

• Cut furniture purchases

• Cut back field trip funding

• Reduce BOCES spending

• Reorganize supervision and duties

• Increase fund balance appropriation

• Cut bus lease

To increase the revenue side of the budget, the district will use $541,349 in federal jobs funds, $470,000 from the ERS reserve, $100,000 from the sale of the Branchport school building and $60,000 from a NYSERDA energy program.

After Assistant Superintendent for Business Doug Tomandl gave his second presentation on the budget in two days, school board members asked a few questions and commented on the plan so far.

Board member Anita Maroscher said she would like more information and would like more brainstorming sessions with the administrators, while Mike Van Wormer suggested representatives from the bargaining units be brought in for discussions. After pointing out that most private sector employees are not seeing 2 or 3 percent increases or guaranteed pensions, he said, “I’m not suggesting taking away what people already have.”

Board member Ryan Hallings said a zero percent tax levy increase would impact programs. “I don’t see going without an increase,” he added.

Interim Superintendent Tom Cox cautioned that sometimes in difficult times, school boards pare a budget down so far that the public votes the budget down because it’s been cut too deeply. That could leave the district with a contingent budget that is actually more costly than a proposed budget.

A good sized crowd attended a public forum on the budget process on Feb. 15, then another crowd turned out for the regular school board meeting on Wednesday.

Tomandl said he was encouraged by the number of people who turned out for the meetings.

Following the presentation at the school board meeting, Board President Jeff Morehouse said, “Please go home and share this information, and we encourage you to come again.”

Another forum will be held at 3:30 p.m. March 2 in the Penn Yan Middle School auditorium.

The public hearing on the budget will be held May 4 and the budget vote will be held May 17.