Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

February 6, 2013

Big gap in budget

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NEWFANE –– They may have started earlier this year, but that doesn’t mean Newfane school officials don’t still have some tough decisions to make in the 2013-14 budget.

Superintendent Christine J. Tibbetts presented the latest version of the budget to board members Tuesday. Currently, the projected $33.5 million budget would be a $587,226 or 1.78 percent increase from the current school year’s spending plan.

That includes state aid — according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget — revenue coming in at $16.8 million, about 2.71 percent higher than what Newfane will receive this school year. Tibbetts is also recommending the tax levy raise by 2 percent, or about $250,000, to $12.7 million. 

But that leaves a gap of $3.4 million in the preliminary budget. Tibbetts proposed covering the deficit by doing two things:

First, Newfane is asking the state comptroller’s office for permission to use the district’s Employee Benefits Accrued Liability Reserve funds to cover retiree healthcare benefits. Suggested by the district’s attorney, that would cover about $838,420.

Tibbetts said Business Administrator Bart Schuler is working with the comptroller’s office.

“He doesn’t feel it will be a real problem (getting permission), but we do need to go through the process of approval,” Tibbetts said.

The second part is to use $2.6 million in reserves. That would cover the remainder of the deficit. Otherwise, finding $2.6 million in cuts would prove to be difficult, Tibbetts said.

Of course, the final decision is up to Board of Education members. They will adopt a budget sometime in April and residents will vote May 21.

The district is facing a 10 percent increase in healthcare costs, which is about $4.4 million total. There’s also a 16.25 percent increase in the teacher retirement system and a 19 percent increase in the employee retirement system as well.

Angela Gunby, a parent with kids in the district, said officials need to keep in mind how kids will be affected. A teacher, Gunby said she knows how hard it can be to teach a larger elementary class. She’s had classes of 20 kids and 25 kids in the past.

”The difference between the two is astornomical,” she said.

Last year, Newfane did not adopt a budget until the last possible day in April 2012. President James Reineke said he was pleased with how the process was working so far.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.