Scott Rozanski was in the hot seat, so to speak, as he presented budget options during this week’s Batavia City Schools board meeting.
Rozanski, the district’s business administrator, reviewed ways to reduce expenses by $756,449 and get the 2022-23 budget to the state-mandated tax ca of 1.62 percent, or 31 cents more per thousand assessed valuations. Otherwise, district voters would have to approve a budget with a super majority to allow a tax levy increase of more than 1.62 percent.
“(Superintendent Jason Smith) and I have identified some areas to get us to the tax cap,” Rozanski said during Thursday’s board meeting at Batavia High School.
Rozanski presented a $55 million budget on Tuesday that included what was referred to as “wish list” items of nine new teacher positions, five school bus purchases, and replacing four retiring faculty members with new personnel. He and Superintendent Jason Smith agreed to draft a list of ideas to cut overall expenses, which were brought back to Thursday’s meeting.
Options included not replacing four retiring faculty members; phasing in the addition of teachers over a three-year grant of $5.8 million; and/or not buying the five buses and merging Jackson and John Kennedy school students to ride together on buses, and the same for high and middle school students.
The busing option could mean a cut of $366,000 in expenses, but, per prior experience, it would create a delay for Jackson kids; they would get on the bus first before the John Kennedy pickup, he said.
There had been complaints about this system when implemented during the pandemic. Most students adapted in time, he said.
“The first two or three weeks the kids are getting used to the process,” Rozanski said. “After three weeks those kids are in a routine. We could take that out and take that reduction.”
Board President Alice Benedict recalled how the shared busing went.
“We had some really young kids on buses for a really long time,” she said. “Does it have to be five buses or nothing? Can we get one more bus?”
That’s possible, and would mean going back to the drawing board to configure bus routes, Rozanski said.
Benedict wanted to remind all involved that “busing is not mandated.”
“This is a privilege to bus within city limits,” she said.
As for bringing on nine more teachers, “the district would most likely apply for another grant to support” those positions in three years, she said. However, if that’s not an option, Smith and other administrators would have to review programs “and possibly eliminate the positions, or find other positions that could be reduced to make room for these employees and programs,” she said.
Benedict has previously asked about the ratio of teachers to students, and about enrollment trends. Smith suggested that a consultant may be helpful to advise the district about these particular issues during a future board meeting.
The Batavian asked Benedict if those newly hired teachers stayed for three years, would they obtain tenure and therefore be permanent employees? Tenure is not an automatic process, she said.
“In three years, the principal (of the school that houses the grant program and employee) and the superintendent, along with the director of curriculum, will make a total review of the need of the position and the performance of the employee before making it a tenured position,” she said. “The board then receives the recommendation to discuss and vote on.”
Benedict asked the board a couple of times during the meeting if anyone had questions. No one responded. All board members will have a say, she said.
“Before anything is concluded, I will have conversations with everyone on the board,” Benedict said to The Batavian. “We have one month to ask as many questions as we need to so we can come to a consensus. It’s my goal every year to get the tax levy as low as it can be. We are still in the process of finalizing the budget.”
A final budget will be adopted before the budget presentation on May 5 and district vote on May 17. In addition to a 2022-23 budget, district residents will also be asked to vote for three school board candidates to replace Michelle Humes, John Marucci and Chezeray Rolle, whose terms expire this year. Board candidates have until April 27 to file petitions for election.
Top photo: Batavia City Schools Business Administrator Scott Rozanski; Batavia City Schools Board of Education President Alice Benedict and Superintendent Jason Smith. Photos by Howard Owens.