SWCS Board Begins Series Of 2014-15 Budget Presentations

The Southwestern Central School district is preparing for the budget-building process by taking a focused look at each facet of the impending budget.

On Tuesday, the first in a series of budget presentations addressing individual district departments took place during a regular meeting of the Board of Education. The presentation focused on the district’s debt service, buildings and grounds and transportation departments, and was administered by Scott Hoot, school business administrator.

According to Hoot, the district’s current debt service for the 2013-14 school year consumes nearly 16 percent of the overall budget, while all items that are able to be refinanced have been refinanced through 2018.

“If you look at the difference in total (debt service) between 2011-12 and 2012-13, you will see there’s a pretty substantial decrease of over $300,000 in debt service payments,” Hoot said, addressing the board. “That’s the point in time when the district went out and did a refinancing of old debt issues and saved on interest, taking advantage of current lower interest rates.”

Hoot reported the district’s 2013-14 net local share to be $375,000, but said that amount will jump to approximately $585,000 in 2014-15 due to the implementation of a statewide reset of interest rates; which is the method by which individual districts’ state aid is delivered for building projects.

The building and grounds department profile was compiled by Roger Connelly, building and grounds superintendent, and presented by Hoot. The presentation touched on staffing and their duties, the equipment currently being utilized by the district, the cost of utilities and areas that will require attention in the coming year – including high school auditorium curtains, boiler room repairs and upgrades, freight elevator repairs and the provision of floor scrubbers in all buildings.

In terms of energy usage in the utilities realm, Hoot noted that the district is approximately 13 percent over in usage when compared to last year at this time due to much colder temperatures.

The transportation department profile was compiled by Nancy Philbrick, head bus driver, and touched on information regarding the district’s bus fleet, personnel and fuel costs. Hoot said the proposed transportation budget for 2014-15 is nearly $18,000 below that of last year as a result of lower gas and oil costs.

Additionally, the district is considering transitioning from its traditional method of replacing its old buses after seven years of use, to one in which buses would be replaced after 10 years of use. If this consideration becomes a reality, the district would not need to purchase any new buses for the 2014-15 school year, and would save on expenditures in that regard; however, board member Robert Stevens expressed his dissent with the notion.

“The prior director of transportation found that, after seven years, the resale value of the buses fell off significantly; basically down to zero. (This was) mainly due to corrosion issues the buses experienced,” Stevens said. “Plus, the cost of maintaining the buses from year seven to 10 increases significantly because of those corrosion issues. And because of the fact that we, just this past year, hit the seven-year mark, I’m kind of leaning toward sticking with the seven-year (method) for a couple years and see how it goes.”

Philbrick said that she has further information on the district’s bus purchase history that she will share with the board. Maureen Donahue, district superintendent, suggested Philbrick and Hoot work to put something together to present to the board at a later date before the decision is made.

In other news, the board discussed its informal decision to discontinue its membership with the New York State School Boards Association for the 2014-15 school year due to a substantial increase in yearly dues. According to Jim Butler, board president, the dues have climbed from $6,755 in 2008 to $7,915 in 2014 – an increase of $1,160 over six years. Donahue said NYSSBA is aware of the board’s decision and Timothy Kremer, executive director of NYSSBA, has offered to visit with the board for a discussion. The board agreed to meet with Kremer, and Donahue said she would work with NYSSBA to arrange a meeting.

The next meeting of the Board of Education will convene at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 for a work session in the elementary school cafeteria.