By Jaime Thomas
The Granville school board passed a tentative final budget following a workshop Monday night.
There will be a 2.5 percent tax increase, which will raise the levy $167,000 from $6,661,872 to $6,828,419. Board members could have raised the tax levy as much as 4.8 percent but voted several weeks ago to keep it low.
In order to balance the budget, however, officials had to borrow $1,200,000 from their fund balance.
“We’re hoping to hear by the end of the week that we’ll get some more money from the state,” said Cathy Somich, district business manager. She said the New York legislature has tentatively agreed to restore some aid, and whatever Granville realizes out of this will be used to replace the fund balance.
Somich blames much of the district’s financial duress on the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which is aimed to help schools throughout the state but hurts those in high-need districts. Granville, who she said is very dependent on state aid, has lost more than one million each year since 2008.
“If you don’t have fund balance to bridge the gap, you’re kind of stuck,” she said, mentioning schools in western New York who are currently filing insolvency. Granville will have to do the same in four years if more aid doesn’t come from the state, or if the economy doesn’t significantly improve.
“We have enough to get through three years; after the third year we’re completely wiped out,” Somich said.
The $25,000,000 total budget includes a $485,000 increase from last year, or just under 2 percent.
As far as savings, Camille Harrison, Director of Special Education, mentioned the district is moving speech, occupational and physical therapy to an outside vendor, which will save $100,000.
Other unavoidable increases include teachers’ retirement, which is going up by about 4 percent, and health insurance costs, which are rising by 7.5 percent. There will also be a 1.88 percent increase in administrative costs due to contracted salary negotiations.
The board raised Vermont state tuition to $8,200 per year, which is a 2.5 percent increase. They will vote on the budget at the April 15 meeting.
On Monday night, board member Suzanne McEachron asked if the board could ask for bids for an outside contract in the cafeteria. Somich had reported a $24,000 year-to-date loss in the cafeteria, due to the child nutrition bill.
“Other schools are dumping the program; we cannot,” Somich said, and she told McEachron that the union protects workers from contracting out while they are employed.
But McEachron said she wanted the issue to be explored.
“Can we put the fishing hooks out? I think we’re foolish not to look under every rock,” she said. Somich agreed to do so and made clear that the financial loss is not due to the staff, because she said they do an excellent job.
During the meeting, a student, Marc Billow, told the board the Vex Robotics team has surpassed their goal for fundraising for their upcoming trip to Anaheim. He gave special thanks to board member Dan Nelson, who petitioned on their behalf with various local businesses.
“It means a lot to have the community come together for a trip like that,” Billow said. So far, the community has donated $3,300 toward the students’ trip. The board had agreed to match anything up to $2,500, and members voted to use the extra money to fund teacher Gary Gendron’s trip as well.