Granville begins fashioning school budget

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Granville Central School District.

A special Granville Board of Education meeting on Feb. 28 served as the first 2022-23 budget workshop session.

District business manager Cathy Somich’s first of several presentations over the next three months leading to the budget vote on May 17 was focused on operations/maintenance, cafeteria and transportation expenditures.

All three categories are proposed to see significant increases because of challenges identified as projected rises in health insurance costs, inflation, supply-and-demand variables, the cost to maintain supplies and unfunded mandates.

Somich began by addressing the hurdles in how state funds proposed in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Executive Budget, including “foundation aid,” would assist the district.

“For the 2022-2023 school year, the Executive Budget proposal includes approximately $31 billion in traditional school aid, an increase of state support of over $2.1 billion (7.1%) over 2021-2022 school funding,” Somich said.

“Foundation aid is the main state source of general operating funds for school districts,” she said. “The Executive Budget proposal includes year two of the state’s three-year commitment to fully fund foundation aid by $1.6 billion (8.1%) over the 2021-2022 school year.

“Under the proposal, every school district is guaranteed a minimum foundation aid increase of 3% over the 2021-2022 school year. Granville Central school District will receive a 7.05% ($936,649) increase in foundation aid… in the 2022-2023 Executive Budget proposal.”

The operations/maintenance fund had the largest proposed budget of the night, with $1,952,970 anticipated for next school year. The fund would see a 22.46% ($358,247) jump from the current budget.

Salaries, equipment, contractual expenses, electricity and fuel oil were some of the largest appropriated items in the proposed budget, accounting for $1,608,005 of the almost $2 million budgeted fund.

Building and grounds manager Dan Daigle said a new piece of equipment the district is eyeing is a boom lift. Daigle said the village of Granville allows the school district to use its lift but it only extends to 20-feet-high.

“We have to rent when we need it,” Daigle said.

A new steamer for Granville Elementary School ($22,000) and a pickup truck with a plow ($45,000) for the district have also been appropriated for.

In the cafeteria fund, Somich is anticipating a budget of $612,000, a slight increase from the current budget of $568,328.

District cafeteria manager Joanne Warner was recognized for her 40 years with the district. She said the numbers budgeted could fluctuate negatively due to inflation and supply-and-demand.

“Whatever the price is, we’ll pay it. I expect we’ll go over budget this year, it’s bad,” Warner said.

On a more positive note, Somich advised the board that the district qualified for the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the National School Lunch Program and Summer Food Service Program’s incentive “to provide free meals to students and increase reimbursement rates” for the remainder of the current school year because of Covid-19.

“This waiver was implemented in order to support access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to Covid-19,” Somich said.

The district is still awaiting confirmation that this will carry over into the 2022-2023 school year as well.

Key points in the cafeteria section from the state level include, if approved, Hochul’s new program titled “No Student Goes Hungry.” The initiative would appropriate $5 million to reimburse schools for an increase in the number of meals served and transition the National School Lunch Program from the state Education Department to the federal Department of Agriculture and Markets.

“Farm to School” and school lunch/breakfast programs have also been proposed in Hochul’s budget, but Somich recalled these items being proposed in years past.

“These initiatives have been discussed for a number of years, however there has not been money appropriated to cover the additional costs for the ‘Farm to School’ programs,” Somich said in her presentation. “This budget is addressing the need to enhance funding for school lunch and breakfast programs so farm fresh and locally grown food are options for meal planning.”

The largest increase in the cafeteria expenditures is in wages, with a projected increase of $28,514 compared with $224,000 this year.

The final department addressed was the Transportation department, eyeing an allotment of 1,617,914 for the next school year, an 11.24% increase.

Also proposed is the trade-in of three 2015 International school buses that have high mileage, rusting and frame issues, respectively.

The $28,500 collected from the trade-in values would go toward the purchase of a 65-passenger school bus ($145,221) and a 60+0 wheelchair school bus ($157,522), both diesel-fueled, resulting in a final purchase price of $274,243.

One of the most significant proposals made by Hochul was the desire to pivot to all-electric school buses by 2035, and all new buses be zero-emissions by 2027.

School superintendent Tom McGurl mentioned that the idea is great on paper, but there is a long list of items to be checked off in terms of building infrastructure, purchasing and/or leasing the new buses and installation of charging stations.

“I don’t think anyone within the advocacy group is necessarily against the idea, especially if it’s going to be funded, but there are so many questions that need to be answered before you can just say this is the date that it kicks in,” McGurl said.

Somich provided good news to low-and-middle-income and eligible senior households of a proposed rebate by Hochul.

“The (proposed) program will provide a rebate check to homeowners if they are eligible according to the following criteria of being New York residents owning and living in real property enrolled in either the New York state School Tax Relief (STAR) credit or STAR exemption program and are a homeowner with a qualified annual gross income no greater than $250,000,” Somich said.

“For a homeowner making under $75,000 per year, the savings will equal approximately $1,050 to be given in the form of a check in the fall of 2022. Amounts will vary depending on variables that include property tax rates and the property tax owner’s personal income.”

The new budget is proposed to have a 0.78% tax levy increase ($6,526,492) following an 8.48% decrease this year.

“Based on tax cap formula and allowable levy growth factor – Granville can raise the tax levy $50,373 without a supermajority vote,” Somich said.

The next time the board gathers will be for its meeting on March 14 at 6 p.m. followed by a second budget workshop on March 28 at 6 p.m. discussing expenditures for instructional textbooks, equipment, personnel staffing (instructional and support), special education, computer assisted instruction and interscholastic sports.