Bemus Point Board Holds Budget Hearing

The numbers remain the same but the presentation of the Bemus Point Central School budget has undergone a small makeover.

On Tuesday, the Bemus Point Board of Education held its second public hearing for the proposed $13 million budget that failed to pass a community vote last month by a 227-215 margin.

The meeting convened with a slideshow presentation that provided a detailed look at the budget’s expenditures, revenues, tax cap/increase, gap elimination adjustment, reserve funds and trends over the past eight years. The slideshow was presented by Jacqueline Latshaw, district superintendent, and Charity Mucha, business manager. It has also been made available on the district’s website at www.bemusptcsd.org.

According to Latshaw, part of the community’s issue with the budget is presumed to be from misunderstandings regarding the district’s tax cap, how education is changing and why the district needs to purchase technological equipment in order to keep up with these changes.

Mucha, business manager, provided a detailed explanation of how the district arrived at the proposed 5.67 percent tax levy increase, and how it is still within the 2 percent tax cap allowed by the state.

“The calculation is very misleading because the governor promoted it as a 2 percent tax cap, but it’s very rarely going to ever come out to 2 percent for any school district,” she said.

Patrick Green, board president, added: “Last year, we were at a 1.74 (percent) increase and we needed a supermajority vote because we were over the cap.”

Mucha also provided a comparison of the proposed 2013-14 budget with the budget of the 2005-06 year. This year’s $13,119,825 budget is an increase over the $10,892,795 budget from eight years ago, an average annual increase of 2.56 percent. The district’s state aid is $4,120,305 this year, $151,407 less than that of 2005-06 – this is due to frozen foundation aid in 2009-10 and 2010-11, as well as the introduction of the gap elimination adjustment in 2011-12. Mucha also reported a $1.86 per $1,000 lower tax rate between 2005-06 and now – going from $16.30 to $14.44 per $1,000 assessed value.

Mucha said the district began using its reserve funds in 2010-11 to maintain a low tax rate, using an average of $300,000 annually. She said the district cannot sustain this pace, hence the tax levy increase.

Of the proposed budget, Green said the district is doing the best it can with what has been provided by the state.

“We really feel it’s a fair budget,” he said. “We feel it’s reasonably good for the taxpayers, and reasonably good for the students; as good as we can come up with now.”

Latshaw also presented the attendees with another slideshow focusing on the various state mandates the district is expected to comply with, how purchasing technology is required in order to be compliant, and the impact that the mandates have on the district’s staff and budget. The mandates discussed by Latshaw included: the Common Core State Standards, New York state assessments and tests, PARCC assessments, Data-Driven Instruction and Inquiry, Response to Intervention and the Annual Professional Performance Review.

“In many ways I think this is a really good mandate,” she said of the APPR process. “I think you grow when you have good, quality feedback. And I think teachers would agree that, even though this process is long, the feedback you receive does help you grow as a teacher or as a principal.”

The budget will go up for vote again Tuesday from 2-8:30 p.m. If it fails a second time, the district will be forced to adopt a contingency budget calling for $424,134 in cuts. The cuts mandated by the state include additional computers and common core materials from administrative savings, all equipment including technology, transportation within two miles of the elementary school and supplies. These mandated cuts, however, would only add up to $166,465.

An additional $257,669 in cuts would also need to be made to satisfy the amount required by the contingency budget. At that point, Latshaw said, it would become necessary to eliminate programming and staff positions.