Fewer than a dozen people showed up to Jackson Street School on Tuesday night to hear, and have a chance to be heard, on the proposed 2011-12 Batavia City Schools' budget.
It's a budget that would, if passed, increase the tax levy by 5.75 percent, or about $1.14 per $1,000 assessed valuation.
The $39.6 million spending plan eliminates several staff positions as the district struggles to meet the demands of shrinking state aid and growing personnel costs.
Voters will be asked to approve the budget May 17.
If voters turn out against the budget, it doesn't necessarily mean local property owners will avoid a property tax increase.
The district has two choices if the budget isn't ratified: propose a new budget for voters or pass a contingency budget.
In the case of a contingency budget, the state mandates certain budget expenses be removed -- equipment, some instructional and extra-curricular programs and public use of school buildings.
Even if those items are cut from the budget, Superintendent Margaret Puzio explained, it would only decrease the tax levy by about $100,000.
Even a contingency budget would lead to a property tax increase.
About 75 percent of the district's budget is taken up by personnel costs.
Employee benefits account for $8.8 million of the district's expenses. The state mandated employee retirement system contribution has gone up more than 16 percent, an increase of 39.6 percent over 2010-11. The district's contribution to the teacher retirement system has gone up 11.11 percent, a 28.9 percent increase over the previous budget year.
“Those are significant expenses and completely beyond the control of anybody in the district,” said Board Member Gary Stich (inset photo).
Most of the revenue for the district comes in the form of state aid, which is being cut for the fourth straight year.
In 2008-09, the district received $20.1 million in state aid. The estimated aid for 2011-12 will be $17.9 million.
In that time, state aid has decreased from 49.92 percent of the district's revenue to 46.83 percent.
The district is getting a little help from the federal government, Puzio said. It's a one-time grant of more than $500,000. The district is using that money to help offset reduced state aid.
"The good thing is it (the grant) helped us plug a little bit of the hole from that loss in state aid," Puzio said. "The bad news is, next year it will be gone. We don’t know what we’ll get in state aid next year, but we need to realize that we are already a half-million dollars down.”
The budget reduces non-instructional staff time and eliminates six non-instructional positions.
Six full-time instructional positions are eliminated, including three teacher aids.
The only audience member to speak was David DiSalvo, and he questioned the seemingly high salaries of some staff and district administrators.
Board Member Patrick Burk defended administrator salaries saying that current administrators are earning less than they might make elsewhere and that the district must offer competitive salaries in order to hire and retain the best personnel.