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GESD adopts $68M budget for 20-21

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education on Monday approved the adoption of a proposed $68.19 million 2020-21 school budget to present to district voters by absentee ballot next month. The proposed budget includes 15 staffing cuts made in all except one instance through attrition as the district continues to wait for final state aid figures. If state aid is significantly cut, district officials say another 15 positions will be cut through layoffs.

District Treasurer Cathy Meher on Monday provided a final overview of the proposed $68.19 million 2020-21 school budget before its adoption during Monday’s virtual Board of Education meeting. The finalized budget represents a 1.72 percent increase over the current year’s $67.04 million budget. The budget carries a 2 percent tax levy increase to a total levy of $15.31 million, up from the current year’s levy of $15.01 million. The proposed tax hike is below the district’s tax cap of 2.33 percent.

Still unknown is the amount of state aid the district will receive. The budget includes an estimated $47.98 million in state aid, down from the current year’s $48.05 million in aid. Meher noted that aid was projected from 2019-20 foundation aid figures and adjustments based on information provided by the state for aid planning purposes and advice from the district’s financial advisors.

Meher and district officials have been scaling down the district’s proposal since the budget process started at the beginning of March, before school buildings were ordered closed and a stay at home order was issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The district has been making cuts in reaction to the passage of the state budget signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on April 3 that keeps state aid to school districts flat at the 2019-20 level while allowing the state to adjust or reduce aid over the course of the year based on actual revenues received by the state.

The state is projecting a budget shortfall this year due to expenditures related to the coronavirus and losses in revenue related to restrictions closing non-essential businesses. Any cuts in state aid will be determined following three “measurement periods” running from April 1 to 30, May 1 to June 30 and July 1 to Dec. 31. Although the first measurement period has concluded, state aid figures for school districts have not yet been released.

“State aid represents over 70 percent of the district’s total revenue. It’s been very difficult to develop a budget with the largest revenue source still unknown,” said Meher.

The proposed budget features a $1.4 million increase for general teaching and instructional costs to a total of $33.64 million due to the rising cost of additional students attending special education and Pathways in Technology Early College High School programs through HFM BOCES and contractual salary obligations. Expenses in this category rose despite the elimination of 12 teaching positions and three clerical positions across the district through attrition in all except for one instance.

The district will also experience a $752,540 increase to debt service payments to a total of $11.03 million next school year due to principal and interest payments for existing and future bond and bond anticipation notes.

The district will see decreased expenditures of $512,840 in general support costs to a total of $6.15 million and $454,515 in fringe benefits to a total of $14.3 million next year. The reductions are a result of cost savings for receiving services through HFM BOCES, the elimination of purchases for classroom furniture and maintenance equipment and falling insurance costs related to staff cuts.

The budget is balanced with a $1.79 million fund balance appropriation that Meher said could be adjusted “up or down” depending on the amount of state aid the district ultimately receives. In the event state aid is reduced significantly, Meher said further staffing reductions will be made.

The initial staffing cuts are not expected to impact educational or extracurricular course offerings to students. District Superintendent David Halloran noted that 15 additional staff members have received reduction in force notices that could be acted on in the future if state aid is significantly reduced. These further cuts would result in reduced course offerings at certain section levels and increased class sizes.

“If the governor alters our aid in the months ahead, and he has saved several dates for himself throughout the course of this school year, if he alters this aid in the months ahead we may be forced to cut deeper into our program,” said Halloran. “We’re pleased that these 15 RIF notices are not part of this current budget and I hope that we do not have to reduce any further than we already have. We regret the anxiety this has caused our employees and their families, we would not have put them through this if we did not believe that it was a possibility that our aid could be reduced in the months ahead.”

Halloran and Board of Education President Robert Curtis commended Meher for her efforts drafting the budget proposal in the “difficult environment” school districts are faced with this budget cycle before the board unanimously approved the adoption of the proposed $68.19 million 2020-21 school budget.

The budget will be presented to voters during the district budget vote that will be conducted by absentee ballot on June 9. All registered voters in the district will receive ballots by mail next week with a postage paid oath envelope that must be returned by mail and received by the district by June 9 at 5 p.m.

District voters will also elect three candidates to three open seats on the Board of Education. Current candidates include incumbents John Lott and Sharon Poling and newcomer Mike Oathout.

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