Tough decisions ahead

Gwen Chamberlain

 Following budget presentations by interim business manager Rodger Lewis and Superintendent Ann Orman last week, School Board President Jeff Morehouse commented, “We’ve got a lot of tough decisions left.”

Those tough decisions are all about reducing the tax levy increase for the proposed 2009-2010 school budget.

As the proposed spending plan stands now, the tax levy (the total amount of funds to be raised by local property taxes) is projected to increase by 6.27 percent.

And although it’s less than the double-digit increase which would have been attached to a budget with no spending changes, that’s not an acceptable increase, say board members and administrators.

There are two basic steps to take to reduce that increase: find new sources of revenue — a difficult proposition given the economy —or find more places to make spending cuts.

Lewis offered a first look at the draft $31.67 million spending plan that represents a 4.47 percent spending increase over last year’s budget.

He told the board to make the tax levy increase go down by just one percent, an additional $150,000 in spending needs to be cut. So, to end up with no increase in the tax levy, more than $900,000 still needs to be cut.

The largest increase in the budget is in payments for bond anticipation notes, which jumps from $84,000 to $2,111,400 next year. The debt is to cover the local share of major improvements that have been made to the school’s building. 

Other areas with increases include: auditing, up $12,000; central data processing, up $55,759; supervision, $49,452 and hospitalization, medical and dental insurance, up $94,328.

Areas where decreases are expected include: Teaching staff, down over $370,000 (see related story); transportation, down $52,645; Occupational education, down $19,644; computer assisted instruction, down $36,171; guidance, down $34,880; interscholastic athletics, down $18,921; state retirement, down $21,914.

Lewis said $100,000 was cut from the proposed transfer to capital reserve fund.

One of the biggest hits on the budget came when New York State Gov. David Paterson announced his deficit reduction plan in early February which will reduce Penn Yan’s state aid by $900,000.

The school board must adopt a budget to present to the voters by the end of April. Voters will decide the fate of the spending plan in an election in May.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Greg Rector asked the board to talk to the administration about freezing salaries across the board.

Following the presentation, Board member Anita Maroscher said she appreciated the effort that has gone into the process so far. “I truely know that as good as it looks in the package, there is stress that goes into it because you’re dealing with people’s lives.”