Penn Yan school tax levy up 3.15 percent

Gwen Chamberlain

Penn Yan Central School District officials are finalizing the proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year, planning to use reserved funds to offset property tax increases. Even so, the budget presented at the Feb. 12 meeting will need to be supported by 60 percent of the voters for adoption. That's because, as it stands, the proposed tax levy increase of 3.15 percent exceeds the 2.67 percent cap calculated from the state's "2 percent" tax cap.

Superintendent David Hamilton says the district administration's general recommendations are to make no major changes in staffing, programming or expenditures — to keep expenses flat wherever possible.

He said the proposed budget calls for keeping staffing at current levels, but to keep options open for changes of assignments due to program needs, such as shifting a teacher to another assignment due to enrollment. Budgets for supplies, services, and equipment will be frozen at this year's levels.

Increases are expected in instruction and employee benefits while decreases are expected in Special Education and debt service.

A budget that maintains all the current programs will cost $33 million, up from this year's $32.6 million spending plan, or 1.31 percent. The total tax levy is expected to increase $530,403 or 3.15 percent.

On the revenue side, state aid is still undetermined, but district officials are estimating the district can expect about $13.4 million. The plan calls for using $850,000 in reserves, and $400,000 in fund balance.

Hamilton detailed the spending plan after building principals gave their mid-year reports, which included details about progress toward specific goals, and statistics about academics and extracurricular activities.

Tying the district's financial planning to the success of those programs, he said the district is beginning to see the results of making big changes to have an impact on more students.

"A budget could just be a bunch of numbers if you don't tie it to what we have here. This will be the time to hold in place where we are and let some of these programs continue to percolate," he said.

After his presentation, school board members asked administrators to continue looking at ways to increase revenues, and to establish the outlook for reserves and debt structure.

Other business at the Feb. 12 meeting included:

• COMPUTER LAB: During his report, PYA Principal David Pullen reported on computer use in response to questions from a parent, Chris Mashewske, in a previous meeting. School Board President Jeff Morehouse promised to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue with Mashewske in more detail. Pullen said students continue to use the computers in the library/media center, and there are laptop computers students can sign out. Between 285 and 350 students (50 to 60 percent of the student body) use the computers per day. Pullen also noted more students are staying after regular school hours to use the library and other resources.

• CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS: Representatives from SEI Design Group reported on their review of building needs. They said the Middle School roof does need attention, but the district can wait another year to start a project, which will make it eligible for state aid.

Representatives will meet with more staff to begin working on long term initiatives.