Residents head to polls May 19
On Tuesday, May 19, Marcellus Central School District residents will vote on the district’s $32,253,589 proposed budget for the 2015-16 school year. The budget calls for a 2.05 percent increase in spending over 2014-15 and carries a 0.74 percent tax levy increase, the lowest in recent history.
The fiscal plan, adopted by the Board of Education on April 20, includes no program reductions, adds teaching positions and provides for equipment upgrades and security enhancements.
Residents also will elect three members to the Board of Education and decide on a second budget proposition, to replace four school buses and one Chevrolet Suburban at a cost of $478,313. The district is eligible for 76 percent reimbursement from the state for the cost of the vehicles.
A third proposition asks voters to consider a budget increase for the Marcellus Free Library.
When district officials began budget development earlier this winter, they initially projected a budget gap of about $775,000. That was after learning preliminary state aid data was being withheld from school districts by the governor and before information about some expense-side items had been released, including the district’s required contribution rate to the teachers’ retirement system (TRS), which is decreasing in 2015-16 for the first time in years.
In April, administrators and Board of Education members learned the district is slated to receive an increase of $899,075 or 7.25 percent in total aid from the state, helping to close the budget gap.
“We were gratified to learn last month that our state aid outlook will not hamper our efforts to maintain the excellent academic program our community expects from Marcellus schools,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Craig J. Tice said. “By allocating a prudent amount of district reserves, we also are able to deepen our staffing, augment our arts and athletics supplies and enrich some curriculum materials – all while limiting the tax burden for our citizens.”
Marcellus will pay for its expenses in part with a proposed tax levy of $17,907,445. This represents an increase of $130,670, or 0.74 percent, over 2014-15 – the maximum allowed for the district under the state tax levy limit law. For the owner of a $100,000 home with a basic STAR exemption, this would mean an estimated increase of $12.06 in school property taxes.
District administrators and board members are proposing to use $601,366 in reserve funds – about 11.4 percent of the district’s remaining fund balance as of June 2014 – to help fill the gap between projected revenues and expenses for 2015-16.
Administrators and the Board of Education drafted a plan that:
“With the recent passage of the capital building project, the Board of Education and administration wanted to develop a budget that was sensitive to the local taxpayer – not only by keeping the tax levy increase under 1 percent, but also by limiting any additional expenditures to those elements determined to be ‘mission-critical’,” Dr. Tice said.
- Adds a full-time special education teacher, a full-time English Language Learner teacher, a part-time music teacher and a part-time teacher aide ($171,136);
- Funds a state-mandated Building Conditions Survey, which must be conducted every five years ($100,000);
- Purchases art equipment and supplies ($14,800);
- Purchases 17 new football helmets and a wrestling mat ($15,950);
- Adds alternative education programming for three students identified as in need of such services ($40,002);
- Purchases new English language arts curriculum for grades 4 and 5 ($50,000);
- Provides funding for scheduled replacement of maintenance equipment ($30,575); and
- Funds a search for a new superintendent ($24,000).