Falconer Prepares For May 21 School Budget Vote

FALCONER-The only thing the Falconer Central School District needs in order to enact its 2013-14 budget is the approval of registered community voters.

On Tuesday, the board of education presented the proposed budget, which has been approved by the board, before faculty and administrative staff in the high school media center.

The new budget shows a total estimation of $21,647,772, an slight increase over last year’s $21,114,476. This was accomplished through a proposed tax levy increase, which utilizes a portion of the allowance available for teacher retirement services to provide approximately $230,000 in additional taxes, as well as a state aid increase of approximately $400,000.

According to Steve Penhollow, district superintendent, this aid “increase” is deceiving, as it is really only a decrease of the state-imposed gap elimination adjustment.

“We continue to try to meet all of the needs of our increased academic challenges with significantly less funds,” he said. “I know our local legislators have fought very hard for our counties, and we have seen some progress in those areas. But when you look at Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, unequal distribution of moneys is still a big concern for our rural districts.”

Over the past five years, the district has lost more than $6 million in state aid courtesy of the gap elimination adjustment, set at $1.1 million for the 2013-14 school year. Brent Agett, district clerk and business manager for the district, said that over the course of the first two years of reduced aid, the federal government provided approximately $1.1 million to help offset costs. But the district has seen no such funding for the past three years.

“We’re happy the state came up with at least some additional funding from what they had taken back from us, but it’s still disheartening that they haven’t fulfilled their obligation that they started in 2007-08,” said Agett. “Even the maintenance of those funds would have gone a long way, but (the GEA) has forced us to utilize a lot of fund balance. So we just hope for more money, as every district in this area (does).”

Agett also reported that the district saw a decrease in the amount to be returned to the county in the amount of $6,691 for three erroneous assessments in the towns of Ellicott and Ellington.

In other business, the Falconer board will have two open seats to be voted on in the upcoming board elections, a five-year term seat and a one-year term seat. The seats are being sought by two candidates, and the candidate with the most votes will receive the five-year term.

Voting for both the districts’ proposed budget and board elections will take place on May 21.