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S-GI district looks to retirement incentives to make up budget deficit

SPRINGVILLE — Budget planning – and potential financial woes – topped the list of concerns heard by the Springville-Griffith Institute Board of Education, during its Jan. 14 meeting. The board had anticipated community input on budget issues by the 14th. However, bad weather forced the board to cancel its “2014-15 Budget Preparation Community Conversation” on Jan. 7 and 8. A new date for that event has been set for Jan. 28.

The purpose of the conversation will be “to gain an understanding of the values held by district stakeholders as to what is most important, regarding such things as S-GI’s instructional program, extracurricular activities, operations and particularly, facilities and consideration of a capital project. The information gathered and obtained from the community will be used by the board as they progress through the upcoming budget development process,” according to a district release.

Lack of community input had forced the board to talk around some issues, in advance of the meeting. Nevertheless, a presentation by S-GI business administrator Ted Welch spelled out a basic outlook for the district’s budget.

“The overall picture is not catastrophic, but it’s not good, either,” said Welch. “Certainly, [2014]-15, it’s not going to take a lot of heavy lifting to get to a balanced budget on that. The two subsequent years, however, are pretty ugly at this point.”

Welch’s presentation projected a budget gap of approximately $850,000 for 2014-15, increasing to approximately $2 million for 2015-16 and more than $4.3 million in the following year. Salaries, liability insurance and transportation costs weighed heavy on the district’s balance sheet. However, the administrator explained, expenses are less of a problem for the district than a lack of income.

“We don’t have an expense problem; we have a revenue problem,” Welch said. “We don’t have any indication that state aid is going to do anything other than remain flat; there’s no reason for us to expect any more sales tax that we get from Erie County.”

District Superintendent Paul Connelly weighed in, saying, “These are things that we looked at for years now, knew that they were coming mathematically. We’ve done as much as we could, and they’re here.”

Administrators attributed some of the district’s budget woes to New York state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment program. The program is a stop-gap measure enacted by New York state in 2009-10, to help ease budget shortfalls by reducing aid to districts.

Connelly explained that, “Since 2009, not including this year, S-GI has lost $8.9 million because of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.”

During the board’s previous meeting, Welch pegged the latest GEA losses for the district at closer to $12 million.

Beyond raising the tax cap for the district and exploring budgetary recommendations with staff, the superintendent and business administrator said they would be seeking retirement incentives for district employees.

“We’re in a situation right now where we want to really incentivize some of the higher-end folks to move along,” said Connelly.

He noted that the district currently offers a $170 buyout for accrued unused sick leave.

“We looked at some projections; Ted [Welch] has done a lot of work on it, and we frankly believe that we can go up to $250 per day, and that would incentivize a lot of people to move. And the way that this resolution was structured is such that the board is saying it will not be offered, next year.”

After some discussion, the board passed a measure authorizing the superintendent to “enter into an agreement or memorandum of understanding between the district and employees of [the district] regarding a resignation incentive.”

The board’s next meeting will be held Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in the S-GI high school library.

The district’s community conversation regarding the budget has been moved to Jan. 28, from 7-9 p.m. in the S-GI middle school cafeteria.

An alternate date has been set for Jan. 29, in case of inclement weather.

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