NEW BERLIN – Residents in the Unadilla Valley School District will have the chance to weigh in on two multi-million dollar proposals when they go to vote May 19.
School administrators unveiled their proposed 2015-2016 school budget this month. Despite a $2.4 million spending decrease from last year, the pending $18.6 million budget comes with a .81 percent tax levy increase due to a drop in state aid. The district did receive a 4.15 percent increase in basic aid when the state legislature passed their budget earlier this year; however, overall aid, including building aid, has dropped nearly 16 percent.
According to district Superintendent Robert Mackey, most aid reductions are the result of paying off a building loan acquired by the district when the school was built in 2003.
The three-part budget allocates $14 million for programming, $1.9 million for capital expenses, and $2.7 million for administrative costs. With the tax increase, the district says it will be able to maintain student programming without cutting teachers. Mackey said the district further intends to use an additional $30,000 for teacher development and training over the summer.
“We’re very pleased with the budget up to this point,” said Mackey, noting that the proposed .81 tax increase falls well below the allowable 4.93 tax levy limit set by the state.
Being a rural, high-needs school has played an advantage in recouping state aid through the New York’s Gap Elimination Restoration (GER) which targets high-needs districts. The GER seeks to restore funds that were cut through the Gap Elimination Adjustment that was enacted in 2009 and left many schools reeling from drastic cuts in state aid over the last five years. To date, UV has had 98 percent of its funding restored.
The real challenge budget-wise will be in the coming years, said Mackey. Since the building loan is paid off, the reduction in state aid seen this year is the new normal for UV, meaning administrators will need to adjust to having less money available when they put together a spending plan for 2016-2017.
In addition to voting on the budget, residents will be faced with a $12.8 million proposal to make capital improvements on the school’s facilities. The project will be paid through $8.2 million in state aid, $3.8 million from UV’s capital reserve, and $795,340 from EXCEL aid (designated for advancements in technology resources).
The project will not have a tax impact, Mackey pointed out, and will leave approximately $2.5 million (or half of what’s currently available) in UV’s building reserve account
“The bulk of this building project is for maintenance,” he added, citing planned renovations and improvements that will he believes will enhance logistics in and around the school building. “As a district, we want to be in a cycle where we are taking on maintenance and repair projects every three to five years so we aren’t in a position where we have to make a lot of repairs at the same time.”
In April, UV outlined the scope of the project. It includes:
• Renovations to the ag and technology wing to improve safety and add a greenhouse
• Installing video cameras and electronic access linked to the district’s automatic lockdown system..