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2022-23 budget

May 6, 2022 - 6:40pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, 2022-23 budget, notify.

Batavia City School officials want to make something clear about this year’s proposed $54.8 million budget.

Although the levy is to increase by 1 percent to just under $20 million, the actual tax rate may go down due to the volume of raised assessments, Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski said. In fact, if assessments remain the same as they were on April 14, the projected tax rate could be $1.77 less than it is now, Rozanski said during an interview Friday with The Batavian.

School officials — including board members — haven’t been touting that lower tax rate because nothing is definite yet, Rozanski said. There’s about a month left for property owners to file grievances and argue their assessment increases, he said. Instead, Smith mentioned the “concept” of a potentially lower tax rate without talking about actual numbers during Thursday's budget presentation, he said.

"It's hard to get the tax rate right now. The assessments are still being challenged, right?" Rozanski said.  "If everything stays the same as of April 14, indirectly, we didn't say 17.46, we said it is $1.77 less, as of April 14, than the current rate."

The Batavian confirmed the process — complicated as it may be — about calculating tax levies, assessments and correlating tax rates with Kevin Andrews, deputy treasurer for Genesee County. A prior city schools board meeting included the rough figures of a 19-cent property tax increase based on the proposed 1 percent tax levy increase.

That did not, however, include the 11 percent hike in property assessments throughout the city school district entities of schools, the city, Richmond Memorial Library and Genesee County. If assessments are raised more than the proposed tax levy increase, then the tax rate itself is likely to go down, Andrews said. In perhaps oversimplified terms, if you are dealing with 10 properties, and their values go up, the distribution of tax levy would be divided by that larger total assessment for a lower tax rate. If you divided the same levy amount by lower assessed properties for those same 10 properties, the tax rate would reflect that by going up to pay the levy.

“So it could very well be that their levy is going to go up by one percent, but the tax rate is actually going to go down, because of the amount that the assessments have gone up,” Andrews said Friday. The basic calculation or way it works is that whatever the tax levy is, that is adopted by the school in this case … that levy is then distributed and spread out amongst all of the property owners within the municipality based on their assessment. So if you think about it, you know, if you look at each piece by itself, if just the levy goes up, and assessments do the same, then the tax rates are gonna go up, right? Because you're levying more tax. And on the reverse side, if the levy stays the same, and the assessments go up, then in that case, the tax rate would go down, because we're distributing that same levy amongst (the same number of property owners).”

The actual formula, Andrews said, is to take the proposed levy ($19.6 million) and multiply that by the total assessments ($1.1 billion) and multiply that number by 1,000 (assessed value).

Again, since the total assessment, before considering any readjusted assessments, is at an 11 percent increase versus a 1 percent tax levy increase, so a projected tax rate right now is $17.46, Rozanski said. That number will not be certain until after grievances are handled and assessments are potentially adjusted, he said. School tax bills are to go out in October with a final tax rate. If it is $17.46 per $1,000 assessed value, then the difference in a $100,000 property now assessed at $125,000 would be: 100 X $19.23, the current rate, = $1,923 and 125 X the estimated rate of $17.46 = $2,182.50, for an increased property tax payment of $259.50.

To view Thursday’s budget presentation, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8JI99xyBJt1sGdRzmCW2Kg

May 6, 2022 - 8:15am

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School budgets are like teeter-totters, Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith says.

The old kids’ playground toy — that seated a person on each end and they’d push off when their feet hit the ground — is a balancing act. Likewise, school officials try to have a budget with no one end greatly outweighing the other, he said.

“We’re not just pulling pieces out of thin air,” he said during Thursday’s budget hearing at Batavia High School. “(It’s about) having school programs … and what our taxpayers can afford.”

Teeter totter process …
After board budget sessions and a meeting on April 21, the board adopted a proposed 2022-23 budget of $54.8, which is an increase of $2.7 million from the current year’s budget.

A tax levy of just under $20 million will mean a 1 percent tax increase, which Smith believes is a good deal considering all of the program offerings at BCSD, he said.

During his first few months as superintendent, Smith has heard “over and over” how many opportunities there are, from fishing and skating clubs to academic, athletic and other extracurricular activities, he said.

The district’s focus is mainly on getting kids caught up from prior “learning losses” due to the pandemic’s shutdowns and remote and hybrid education methods, he said. As for the offerings, many of them are not mandated by the State Education Department, including art, laptops, musicals, athletics, smaller class sizes, Community Schools, and even school counselors, he said.

Can anyone imagine school without these amenities, he said.

“These are the pieces we don’t have to have,” he said. “Pieces that really make our school our own school.”

Potential tax rate …
A 1 percent property tax increase would add 19 cents to the current tax rate of $19.23 per $1,000 assessed property value. Comparing apples to apples, the property tax for a home assessed at $100,000 would mean an increase of $19 a year. However, if that same property has been reassessed to $125,000, the yearly property tax would increase by $504.50 ($100,000 X $19.23 versus $125,000 X $19.42).

CLARIFICATION: Because of how tax levies actually determine the tax rate, the tax rate, with increased assessments, could actually go down.  For an explanation, see this story.

The district assessing changing enrollment numbers and the teacher-to-student ratio, he said, to be “conscientious” about the needs and expenses of the district. He emphasized that the district isn’t responsible for setting certain items that can upset taxpayers.

‘We don’t control assessments, we don’t control the tax rate,” he said. “We control the tax levy.”

Taxing entities within the district include the schools, city, library and Genesee County. There is a proposed $100,000 Capital Outlay project included in the budget, which would be reimbursed with about 90 cents for every dollar spent, he said.

What about a ‘no’ …
Smith did not mention, or answer the question from The Batavian previously, about what would happen if district residents should vote this budget down. As Benedict said in response to The Batavian’s question, “I am optimistic that our BCSD proposed budget will pass.”

“However, State Education law provides every school district with options if their budget is rejected,” she said after the meeting. “I am hopeful that this budget passes because it best supports the students of the district.”

The New York State School Boards Association lays out the protocol in case the voters reject a school budget. The school board can prepare and adopt a contingency budget or go to the voters again on June 21, the statewide uniform budget revote day.

If the voters have twice rejected a board-proposed budget for a given fiscal year – either the same budget or a second version – the law prohibits submitting a budget or other expenditure propositions to the voters a third time. The school board must then adopt a contingency budget for the upcoming fiscal year by July 1, NYSSBA states.

Boards may pass multiple resolutions to approve contingency budget appropriations, it states, for specific purposes until the board adopts the overall contingency budget. A contingency budget funds only teachers’ salaries and those items the board determines are “ordinary contingent expenses,” the association states.

Ordinary contingent expenses have been defined under law to include legal obligations; expenditures authorized explicitly by statute; and other items necessary to maintain the educational program, preserve property and ensure the health and safety of the students and staff.

Expenditures that do not constitute "ordinary contingent expenses" include new equipment, public use of school buildings and grounds, except where there is no cost to the district, nonessential maintenance, capital expenditures (except in an emergency) and consultant services to review district operations and make recommendations necessary for the creation of the budget.

The school vote is from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 17 at one of two sites, depending on what side of the city voters reside. For more information, go to: bataviacsd.org

Top photo: 2022 File photo of Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith. Photo by Howard Owens.

May 4, 2022 - 9:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, 2022-23 budget, notify.

As much as Michelle Humes would have liked a zero percent tax increase, she also realizes what comes first.

“We have to keep in mind that our students are the priority,” said Humes, a Batavia City Schools board member. “The approved budget keeps all of our existing programs intact while recognizing that there are ongoing financial challenges due to the rising costs our country is facing.”

She is a city homeowner who is also facing rising assessments and cost of living hikes, she said, but she voted for the proposed $54.8 million budget and related 1 percent tax levy increase as a good move for district residents. Echoing what other board  members have said, the decision was not an easy one, Humes said.

“We spent many hours reviewing the budget and working with Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski analyzing the numbers. I voted to approve the budget because of the hard work of Mr. Smith and Mr. Rozanski in getting the increase down to 1 percent,” she said. I feel that a 1 percent increase after having a zero percent increase in five out of the last 10 years is a win for the community, especially since it is still below our tax cap of 1.62 percent. I fully support our BOE decision to approve this budget.’ 

Given that the preliminary budget had a 5.5 percent levy increase to support it, Humes and fellow board members have expressed relief that it’s now down to 1 percent. That is not only a win for the community, Humes said, but “most importantly for our students.”

District residents will have an opportunity to hear the budget presentation and ask questions at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at Batavia High School, 260 State St., Batavia. Those wanting to speak do not need to have signed up before the meeting date.

There will also be time to meet Board of Education candidates Korrine Anderson, a newcomer vying for one of three seats; and incumbents John Marucci and Chezeray Rolle. Board member Michelle Humes is not seeking re-election.

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Korrine Anderson, center, in a photo used in her election materials. 

A Le Roy High School graduate, Anderson has a bachelors in science from Elmira College, is a health and wellness coach and is ready “to give back in another way” besides volunteering for parent groups throughout her children’s time in elementary and middle schools, she says. She and her husband Michael have three children, Zachary, Aidan and Ava.

“I know what it involves to be an effective member. I am looking to be a part of this side of the education system,” she said in the district’s newsletter. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to learn and share more of what the school board does to the parents and neighbors and community I know. I am so ready to serve.”

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John Marucci. Photo from BCSD Board of Education page

Marucci is currently the board vice president, having served three years, and has “thoroughly enjoyed serving the students, parents and staff of the BCSD,” he said in the newsletter. Marucci’s son Kaden is a senior and Damien a freshman, while two older step-sons are graduates of Batavia High School. A customer service rep with Orcon Industries, he would like to continue serving students as a member of the board, and he believes “we have some unfinished business.”

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Chezeray Rolle. Photo from BCSD Board of Education page.

A BHS graduate, Rolle left Batavia to serve in the U.S. Army, which is when he met his wife Bianca. They have three children who are now “walking the same halls that I once did,” Rolle says.

“I love being a voice and serving the people of this community that I live with,” he said in the newsletter. “It will be a great honor to be one of the candidates chosen to sit and make discussions (SIC) on behalf of the citizens of Batavia.”

The agenda includes a counseling plan presentation by counselor Sherry Crumity, a vote on dedicating and naming the high school auditorium for former music director Frank Owen, and a board discussion about the public speaking policy to sign up by 1 p.m. the Friday prior to a Thursday board meeting.

April 27, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Elba Central School, 2022-23 budget, notify, elba.

As Genesee County school districts provide details about their 2022-23 budgets, there seems no escaping inflation, and Elba Central Superintendent Gretchen Rosales isn’t afraid to admit she’s looking to cut corners.

Rosales, with the assistance of her district treasurer, Lisa Penna, has joined the list of district administrators who have pointed to the problem of rising prices for everything from electric and gasoline to wood.

“Some of the issues that we face include the sharp increase in utilities and other expenses. We have found that materials we need to operate have doubled in price. For example, the lumber for the high school construction class has nearly doubled,” Rosales said to The Batavian this week. “In order for our students to have the same experiences they have always had, we need to figure out where to cut corners in other areas. Everything from the cost of food to the topsoil we purchase has increased dramatically.”

Rosales and Penna have been working closely to create a budget that is “both fiscally responsible and also maximizes our expenditures to best serve the needs” of Elba Central School students, the superintendent said. 

The district has proposed a budget of $11,215,950, which is a 2.5 percent increase from the current budget. Rosales doesn’t expect any related tax rate increase, as the rate has decreased over the last year due to the estimated average assessed property values, she said. 

The financial plan includes a $100,000 Capital Outlay Project for enhancements to district security (re-keying the building, installing reinforced doors) and improving the heating/ventilation and air conditioning system and the boilers. 

A 65-passenger bus is also in the budget,  and that should be reimbursed by the state for up to 90 percent of the cost, she said. 

While the 2.5 percent increase is partially due to contractual obligations, instructional programs and BOCES services (occupational and special education), there are other reasons for this year’s proposed extra spending, she said.

Those rising prices, coupled with a steep increase in health insurance for employees, have prompted a focus on making cuts of any unnecessary expenses while “still providing top-notch instruction,” she said. 

“Being good stewards of the public's investment in education is not something that we take lightly; schools are not the only organizations feeling the pain of supply chain issues and rising costs,” Rosales said. “The families in the Elba community are feeling it just like everyone else.   Being cognizant of that reality is our primary focus right now.” 

She is thankful for a “great leadership team” that’s willing to be creative with new ideas for the student population. The district wants to hire a part-time social worker to better meet the needs of students in a post-pandemic time period, she said. That’s another common thread amongst county districts: counteract what was lost to students during two years of remote and hybrid learning away from class. The hiring process has just begun for this position, she said.

“We are also looking at enrichment and extension programs to help students bridge the learning gap that happened during COVID.  Schools will certainly need to contend with the COVID pandemic for years to come,” she said. “Elba is lucky in the sense that our small, tight-knit community is nurturing and supportive; we will continue to work through any challenges with this in mind.”

Another part of the upcoming budget vote are board members, both new and long-serving, she said. Current President Mike Augello will be stepping down from his role later this year, while newcomer Mercy Caparco and Travis Torrey run for two open seats.

Collaboration has been key to working on a budget, Rosales said, and she is “very thankful” for the help of Penna as district treasurer, her district clerk Donna Harris, a leadership team composed of department heads and the board.

“Of course, the Board of Education has always had the community's best interests at the forefront of this process; we want to be fiscally responsible while still providing the best education around,” she said. “I think we have a great balance in the 22-23 budget.”

The district’s vote will be from noon to 8 p.m. on May 17. There are four propositions to be on the ballot: The total budget, purchase of a new 65-passenger bus, authorizing a $100,000 Capital Outlay Project, and a vote for two Board of Education seats. 

For more information, go the district’s website at: elbacsd.org

April 23, 2022 - 8:00am

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2022 File photo of Batavia City Schools Board President Alice Benedict. Photo by Howard Owens

 

After Thursday’s Batavia City Schools board meeting and budget vote, The Batavian emailed each board member for comment about the budget itself and/or the process, plus any additional comments anyone wanted to make.

Most board members have been quiet during public budget talks, including regular meetings in March and April and a budget workshop in March. Due to the enormous depth of a $54.8 million budget, The Batavian attempted to obtain remarks about it and any particular aspects of interest that the financial plan entailed. 

Board President Alice Benedict — who has been a reliable source for comments throughout these last few months of budget talks — said the board “has had several open discussions about the BCSD budget, including our budget workshop that was streamed on YouTube.” The Batavian viewed the YouTube video of the budget workshop for a second time to make sure that some board discussion wasn’t missed the first time. Benedict was the only consistent speaker throughout the nearly two-hour session, and in subsequent board meeting talks about the budget. 

Benedict was the only board member to respond to The Batavian’s email.

Board members are elected by district residents. The trustees who didn't respond to The Batavian's request for comment are John Marucci, Jennifer Lendvay, Barbara Bowman, Michelle Hume and Chezeray Rolle.

The city schools board “is acutely aware of our responsibility to the community,” Benedict said, “and we know the economic times could not warrant a large increase in school taxes.” The group asked Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski to whittle the initial 2022-23 budget and 5.5 percent increase down to meet the tax cap of 1.62 percent. 

A unanimous vote Thursday adopted the proposed $54.8 million budget and 1 percent tax levy increase. Some posters on a social media site said the increase didn’t include recently raised assessments throughout the city, so “what’s the real increase?” they asked. 

The Batavian used a property assessed at $100,000 as an example, and that would mean a property tax increase of $19 from the prior year. However, if that home has just been assessed at $30,000 more than last year, that homeowner will see an increase of $601.60 in property taxes. ($100,000 at $19.23 per $1,000 compared to $130,000 at $19.42 per $1,000 assessed value.)

“We had previously had Budget Ambassadors, but the community, in the last few years, has not wanted to participate in the budget process. So we changed the process,” Benedict said. “It was successful this year, but the Board is more than willing to extend an invitation to the community to participate if that’s their interest.

“Five out of the last 10 years, the BCSD had no increase in the tax levy, but giving an exceptional and well-rounded education costs money, so we felt, at this time it was appropriate to ask for a slight increase,” she said.

A budget hearing has been set for 6 p.m. May 5 at Batavia High School, 260 State St., to be followed by a district vote on May 17. 

April 18, 2022 - 8:00am

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Editor's Note: The Batavian has reached out to all public school districts in Genesee County to check on how the budget season has been going so far. School district responses will be published as they are received.

While neither Oakfield-Alabama nor Pembroke school districts plan to eliminate any jobs, each would like to add at least one position, including a social worker and maintenance person, to the 2022-23 budget.

First up is Oakfield-Alabama Central School, which reports a tax levy “way under” the cap of 1.97 percent. With a proposed 2022-23 budget of $23,589,606, or a 10.45 percent increase, the district is looking at a 1.1 percent tax levy increase, Superintendent John Fisgus said.

Although expenses for this next year are “hard to manage and estimate at times,” the district has proposed adding three positions: one elementary school special education teacher, one maintenance worker and one guidance office secretary.

During the school board’s March 15 meeting, the need for a maintenance worker was reviewed and explained. There have been two grounds and one maintenance staff to tend to the district’s property, sports fields and building maintenance. The proposed additional position is “no reflection on staff,” Fisgus said, but is called for given the amount of work to be done. 

There are 70 acres to maintain and landscape, which gives each of the two grounds people 35 acres each. Adding a maintenance position would reduce that to about 23 acres each. Maintenance also does the winter snowplowing in addition to grooming the baseball and football fields and other outdoor areas, he said. This person would also serve as a backup for the existing staff. As it is, the district is down one grounds person, which will be replaced, he said.  

“I always thought the size of this district was small and rural, but wow, do we have land,” he said. “Especially with the capital project. We want to make sure our maintenance can keep up with the (work to be done). If someone called in … we’re very worried.”

The current staff has been doing “quite a bit of overtime” to get tasks done, Director of Facilities Jordan Yager said. “They’ve done an awesome job; they just can’t get to everything they need to get done.”

Hiring the additional position would cut down on overtime, he said. 

Good news for the district is a state aid boost of $1.5 million more or an 11 percent increase, Fisgus said. As for predicting future costs, “it's a guessing game when we don't know the outcome of the Governor's Budget,” he said. 

“With the increased costs of gasoline, electricity, and other utilities, we have to forecast out how much longer these increased expenses might continue,” he said. “The inflation rates along with the allowable levy growth factor play into our decision-making when calculating our expenditures.” 

Although revenues are up by $2,168,785 from this past year, he is concerned about Foundation Aid, which has tentatively reflected a decrease of about $100,000 from what the district expected, he said.

“That’s huge for a small rural school. We will need to wait and see what the Governor’s budget entails,” he said. “Our Board of Education is well informed to make the most appropriate and fiscally responsible decisions for our community. I praise their work and commitment to our students, staff, teachers, administrators, and school community. It also helps to have the best Business Adminstrator around to navigate these waters.”

This year’s budget ballot will include a proposition to add a student representative to the Board of Education in 2023. Fisgus is “excited for the opportunity” to have a student on the board, he said. Student ex-officios provide input and updates from the student community, and typically do not vote on district matters. 

“We will have a separate proposition on the ballot for our community to vote on this,” he said.

Pembroke Central School does not have a proposed budget as of yet, Superintendent Matthew Calderon said. District officials usually recommend a tax levy increase of about 2 percent, even though “there are times when the tax cap is far above that,” he said.

Since the tax cap formula includes a calculation for a capital outlay project, he is proceeding with caution before determining a tax levy and related increase or decrease.

“We are waiting for the state budget to pass to determine whether or not we can include a capital outlay project in the proposed budget. That decision will affect our final allowable tax cap and is to be determined,” he said. 

Total expenses are also to be determined, he said,given that “there are expenses that are out of our control.” Those expenses include the rising costs for utilities and health insurance, “which limits our capacity to expand programs for students.”

An increase in state aid, based on the governor’s initially proposed budget, was not enough to cover the district’s preliminary budget, Calderon said. That may mean some belt-tightening if necessary.

“We are prepared to reduce costs to eliminate any deficit,” he said. “And a few retirements may assist in doing that.”

Pembroke is looking at adding one social worker position to “better support the social-emotional needs of students, families and employees,” he said. There are no plans to eliminate any positions.

As for the budget process, there is one big, unanswered question.

“It is challenging to propose and finalize a school district budget when the state budget is late,” Calderon said. 

School budget votes are on May 17, and each school district will conduct a hearing/presentation at least one week prior to the vote. Oakfield-Alabama's hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 10  and Pembroke's hearing is at 6:30 p.m. May 10.

File photo: A new tennis court at Oakfield-Alabama is one of the items needing maintenance at the district, officials say. Photo by Howard Owens.

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