SALAMANCA — The opportunity to pass a $43,537,292 budget with no increase in the tax levy for the third straight year has been presented to voters of the Salamanca City Central School District, with the final results to be counted Tuesday.
Karen Magara, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, presented via Zoom to the Board of Education the proposed 2020-21 budget, which includes $1.12 million more in spending compared to the current school year’s budget, a roughly 3 % increase.
However, the tax levy remains at $250,000 for the third consecutive year. Since the 2013-14 fiscal year, the tax levy has been reduced by about $3.18 million.
“I think it’s important tor the community to know that we have not increased our levy for our taxes since 2010-11,” said superintendent Robert Breidenstein, “I think that is a strong testament to the fiscal leadership that Karen has inspired but also the leadership of the school board to be response for community needs when it comes to the funds the community provides us.”
All eligible voters in the district were mailed ballots in late May. Absentee mail ballots must be received by the district clerk by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. That night, the Board of Education will hear and accept the results of the vote.
In the school board election, the candidate with the highest number of votes will earn the single open seat on the school board for a five-year term. Incumbent board member Kerry J. John is the lone candidate running. The ballot also allows for write-in votes.
Of the revenues that make up the budget, Salamanca is projected to receive $24.08 million in state aid — about 55 % of the budget and a nearly $900,000 increase over the 2019-20 fiscal year.
This is followed by Seneca Nation-related revenues at 34 %, which includes $7.68 million in Impact Aid, up about $1.5 million from 2019, and other Native American contracts at $7.13 million.
“If our state aid were to be reduced, we would not have to increase our taxes,” Magara explained. “We would just increase our use of unreserved funds.”
The rest of the funds come in at 9 % from reserves, 1 % from the tax levy and 1 % from other means. While BOCES costs make up about 13 % of the budget at $5.6 million, Magara said the district gets state aid at 88.7 cents for every dollar they spend on items that are reimbursable.
For expenditures under the state’s three-part breakdown, the district has 68 % of its budget — roughly $29.8 million — going towards programming, the “meat and potatoes” specifically for teaching students. The capital costs come in at 21 % equaling about $9 million and 11 % for administration at $4.68 million.
Under Magara’s breakdown of the 2020-21 expenditures, $18.5 million — or about 43 % — is spent on salaries, and 17 %, or $7.5 million, is benefits related to staff salaries. “About 60 % of our budget is just for nothing but people,” she said.
Part of this increase comes from the budget including plans for several new staff members, including an assistant director for pupil personnel services, chief equity officer, a speech pathologist and bus drivers and monitors, Magara said. Only two retirements are planned for the 2020-21 school year, both in the elementary school, which will be replaced.
“This budget does not have — like other school districts are discussing — substantial programming or staffing reductions,” Breidenstein said. “In fact, we’re adding staff and adding programs because our enrollment continues to rise. That is a reflection that we have listened to and understood the needs of our community and strategically planned to be able to weather any financial, fiscal or biological storm that may come our way.”
Other expenditures for programming include $1.24 million for computer-assisted instruction and $1.22 million for the health and supports offices.
Under Magara’s breakdown, capital makes up the next biggest portion of the budget at $7.25 million, about 17 % of the total. This includes everything from operations and maintenance of buildings and grounds to transportation and debt services for outstanding bonds.
Part of the budget this year includes $1.6 million in a transfer to capital for work to be undertaken by the district pertaining to the ongoing capital project, primarily at Veterans Memorial Park, Magara said. If the budget passes, she said the Board of Education may authorize expending funds on work including some electrical, mechanical, lighting, infrastructure and paving so long as it does not exceed the $1.6 million transfer.
Also on the ballot is a proposition for the district to acquire three additional parcels of property, the first of which is at 70 Fern Ave. adjacent to the high school athletic fields and contiguous to other properties owned or recently purchased by the district, Breidenstein explained. This would be developed at a later date with voter approval.
The other two parcels, located on Front Avenue, are adjacent to Veterans Memorial Park and would be developed in a future project for additional parking, green space and to enhance the park, Breidenstein said. One would be a portion of the property at 413 Front Ave. and the other adjacent to it and Vets Park would be a long-term lease with the Seneca Nation.
The properties would be purchased or leased, with voter approval, for $79.999 (70 Fern Ave.), $50,000 (portion of 413 Front Ave.) and $913.51 (Nation lease) with no impact to the tax levy.
(Contact Salamanca Press editor Kellen Quigley at firstname.lastname@example.org.)