Westfield Approves School Budget

WESTFIELD – The 2013-14 Westfield Academy and Central School budget has been approved.

At a recent board of education meeting, board members voted in favor of the proposed $14,153,014 budget for the upcoming school year.

While next year’s budget is a $300,142 or 2.17 percent, increase from the current school year, it still came with cuts. They were the elimination of one full-time equivalent elementary school teaching position, the reduction of one FTE secondary school teacher to 0.33 FTE, the elimination of 0.33 FTE foreign language position in French, a 12 percent reduction in athletics, a reduction in maintenance staff and a reduction in districtwide supplies. The cuts were made to close a $362,000 budget gap.

However, with the proposed budget the district will be able to maintain full-day kindergarten, all current music and art programs, sports programs, and extra-curricular activities, as well as continue to offer enhanced course selection at high school, and provide small group instruction in the core subjects.

Steve Cockram, board vice president, said he was glad the district was able to save as much programming as it did. His comment was echoed by board member Marie Edwards. Many board members thanked those who put a lot of hard work into creating the budget.

“It makes our lives a lot easier,” said board member Brenda Backus.

Compared to last year’s budget debate, this year’s came and went without contention and with no comments from the public.

The budget will now be voted on by the public on May 21, along with a proposition for the district to purchase a new bus and a single board member seat.

David Davison, WACS superintendent, explained what would happen in case the vote failed to pass the budget. In that case, the board could go to a contingency budget or have a second vote – either with the same budget or an amended budget. However, if the second vote failed, the district would be forced to go with the contingency budget, which would mean $244,000 in cuts to be within the tax levy limit.

Al Holbrook, business manager and district clerk, showed the board the calculations for the tax levy limit, or voter approved threshold, for Westfield for 2013-14. According to those calculations, the estimated maximum tax levy increase is $246,048 or 4.53 percent.

“It is not, and never has been, a 2 percent tax cap,” Holbrook said. “It is a tax levy limit based on 2 percent before you go through all the exclusions.”

A voter approved threshold Holbrook recommended was $244,048 or 4.49 percent. As long as the district asks the voters for any levy increase at or below 4.53 percent, only a simple majority – 50 percent plus one – of voter approval is needed. Anything over 4.53 percent would require a supermajority – 60 percent plus one – to pass.

When the board was asked if any member had any amendments to propose, none was offered.

Also passed at the board meeting was the 2013-14 calendar, which was created in conjunction with Brocton and Chautauqua Lake Central School Districts. The two other districts have also passed the same calendar.

In his report, Holbrook informed the board the district has once again won a School Safety Excellence Award from the Utica National Insurance Group. This is Westfield’s ninth consecutive year winning the award, which comes with $500 in prize money. Holbrook said this money is always put right back into safety at WACS.

After being approved by voters last May, two seats will be cut from the school board, leaving the board with seven seats. The three board members this affects are Cockram, Joy Bodenmiller and Edward LeBarron.

The board also approved to continue the following seven combined athletic teams for next school year: football, Brocton at Westfield; wrestling, Westfield at Chautauqua Lake; swimming, Westfield at Chautauqua Lake; golf, Westfield at Chautauqua Lake; soccer, Brocton at Westfield with Brocton sharing the coaching stipends; girls’ volleyball, Westfield at Brocton; and track, Brocton at Westfield.

Board President Jeff Greabell noted the combined teams worked well last year and sees no reason why they would not continue to do so. Backus commented that it seems like neighboring schools provide transportation for their traveling athletes and thinks Westfield should do the same.

While the board was not prepared to discuss the merger study in detail or take questions on the study, Greabell noted during board member commentary that it was important to get through the report sooner rather than later and encouraged board members to mark it up with questions. Edwards said she was impressed with the presentation on the study, and Greabell said he like the thoroughness and lack of a dictatorial tone.

The board recessed into executive session for the purpose of discussing negotiations.