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Editorials

Lancaster Central School District 2012-13 budget hearings at hand
By Lee Chowaniec
Jan 26, 2012, 09:57
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The Lancaster Central School District (LCSD) 2012-13 budget hearing process will officially begin on February 6, 2012. Superintendent Edward Myszka, along with all other BOE members, is encouraging public participation in the work session budget hearing process.

“We have an awesome task in front of us,” said Superintendent Myszka at Monday’s Board of Education (BOE) meeting. “The governor is also proposing that if districts don’t adopt new instruments to evaluate teachers and administrators, state aid will be withheld from school districts.”

Jamie Phillips, Assistant Superintendent for Business spoke on the media report that LCSD was targeted to receive an 8.6% increase in state aid. “According to the governors state aid dispersal Lancaster was to receive an 8.6% increase in state aid; one of the highest in the region. That is not true. Lancaster is scheduled to receive $6.4 million in transportation state aid. That number is overstated. Not everything that is included in transportation is eligible for reimbursement. LCSD will be receiving more like $5.1 million. A similar overstated estimate of transportation aid was made last year in the amount of $6,439,073. The district actually received $5,053,021”

“Although it is projected that LCSD will receive an increase of 8.6% in state aid, amounting to $2 million, it will be more like a 2% increase, somewhere around $550,000 more in projected aid. The state took away $5.9 million away in aid last year and it will be another $5.4 million in comparison with what was distributed a few years ago.”

“When we couple the $550,000 gain with the loss of $1.7 million in federal stimulus money that expired last year, we are still down near $1.2 million.”

The BOE also approved a resolution that supports a campaign that urges the governor and state legislators to provide local governments relief from unfunded mandates. The organization’s “A Common Agenda for the Common Good” backs reforming the state pension system, the compulsory arbitration process, the Wicks Law and the Triborough Amendment, part of the Taylor Law that requires salary step increases for teachers after their contracts expire.

Other

At the January 9, 2009 BOE meeting a preliminary report on school district staffing status was presented by Michael Vallely, PhD, Asst. Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction & Support Services and Jamie Phillips, Assistant Superintendent for Business. They spoke on declining enrollment, decrease in state aid and property tax levy cap issues that now face all school districts across Western New York.

Enrollment

Dr. Valley presented a graphic display to illustrate how LCSD enrollment has decreased vs. theoretical enrollment; based on past enrollment. Where grades 6 through 12 show stability enrollment of near 500, there is an enrollment decline of 72 students in grade 5; 40 in grade 4; 51 in grade 3; 70 in grade 2; 104 in grade 1; and 128 in kindergarten. There is a total decline in enrollment by 466 students.

Dr. Vallely went on to say that WNY school district reactions to enrollment decline has been to:

• Close schools
• Request contractual restricting
• Reduction in force
• Extracurricular program reduction or elimination (i.e. athletics, music, etc.)

Dr. Vallely declared that by closing Central Avenue School in the 2010-11 school year the district was ahead of the curve in facing what other school districts would be facing this year. He also commended the school staff for making wage concessions in the last contract that amounted to $1.73 million.

In then addressing district staffing, Dr. Vallely and Ms. Phillips presented graphs that covered all the different departments and illustrated today’s staffing in comparison to the 2009-10 school district calendar year.

The total district staff in the 2011-12 year was down 45 FTE (full time employees) from the 2009-10 year. Total staffing now stands at 828.34 employees whereby it was 873.32 in the 2009-10 district calendar year.

In the past two years total district staffing was cut by 45 positions. They were:

Teachers – 22.6
Administration – 1
Teaching Assistants – 0
Clerical Staff – 2.4
Transportation – 6.3
Maintenance – 7.1
Food Service – 2.3
Instructional Support - 2.4
Other – 0.9

Of those 45 staff positions cut, 33.51 took place with the closing of Central Avenue School in 2011-12. 11.9 took place in the 2011-12 year.

Questions at January 23, 2012 BOE meeting

According to Business First numbers, the enrollment for Lancaster in the 2009-10 budget year was published at 6,232; for 2010-11 it was 6,230; and for 201-11the enrollment was listed at 6,170. The two year difference is 62 less in enrollment. How do you explain the difference in enrollment numbers, the theoretical vs. real numbers?

Answer: The information posted in Business First is often a year behind and comes from the NYS Education Department. It is often incorrect. Dr. Vallely went on to explain how the theoretical formula was derived – past enrollment history, building construction taking place in town, and updated census numbers.

Comment: It was also discussed at the January 9th meeting that several board members commented on seeing a number of new builds and yet realizing a declining enrollment they couldn’t see the connection. Please consider that in the past three years 40% of those new builds have been empty nest patio or townhomes buyers; and they receive a 40% tax break on top of that. I was later assured that new build construction was considered in the enrollment decline determination.

Of the 45 total staff cuts that took place over the past two years, after early retirement and attrition, how many individuals are still out of work? How many are teachers?

Answer: Through attrition and early retirement 14-16 staff members are still out of work; half that number are teachers. It is important to keep in mind that the school has eliminated 30 positions in the last two years.

I believe you have mentioned in the past that 85% of the budget is mandated. Is that number correct?

Answer: That is correct.

Of that percentage what encompasses staff salary and benefits?

Answer: The 2011-12 total budget for salary and benefits is about $63.5 million, about 73% of the total budget.

You mentioned the tax cap issue in your presentation. Do we know at this time what the exclusions are and what the tax cap limit is going to be?

Answer: Enough information has not been received to establish the tax cap number.

LCSD administrators and the BOE are to be commended for taking proactive steps in the past few years addressing funding issues that compromise the quality of education of our district. They ask for public participation in the budget process. We owe them that much before casting our budget votes in May.



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