WESTMORELAND — Westmoreland Central School Board of Education will present a proposed $22.53 million 2019-20 budget calling for a 1.81 percent increase in spending and a 1.99 percent increase in the amount to be raised by taxes.
District residents will vote on the proposed spending plan from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 21 at the junior/senior high school gym lobby. A public hearing will be held prior to the vote at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 at the junior/senior high school auditorium.
There are also four incumbents who are running to fill an equal number of vacated seats on the Board of Education. All three-year term positions will be effective July 1. They are Vice-president Joseph Vanderhoff, Heather Johnson, Pamela Murphy and Christine Calogero.
Superintendent Rocco J. Migliori said this year’s state budget provided the school district with about a 2.9 percent increase in foundation aid, which amounted to $223,551. Foundation aid is the operational aid each district receives from the state to operate their school districts. Based indirectly upon income and property wealth of the district and student enrollment, the greater the district wealth, the less aid it receives, Migliori explained.
“Our enrollment has leveled, but as our district income and property wealth continues to increase, our foundation aid, as a percentage of our overall budget, deceases,” the superintendent said. “An indication of our increased district wealth is that in 2000-01, state aid made up about 65 percent of our budget, while today, it’s only about 55 percent. The foundation aid formula is designed to provide the most money to districts that can least afford a tax levy (amount to be raised by taxes) increase.”
The superintendent said the Gap Elimination Assessment, which is the amount of money that state has taken back from school districts to help close the state budget gap, ended three years ago. However, since the introduction of GEA in 2010-11, the district lost more than $6.9 million in promised foundation aid, he said.
“We have shared with you over the past eight years all that we have done to help balance our budgets, and we are grateful for all of the support from the community and bargaining units in making this happen,” Migliori stated.
The proposed spending plan being presented to voters on May 21 carries with it an increase of $401,551 in spending compared to the 2018-19 budget, or 1.81 percent.
“The increase is the result of cost of living increases for salaries and benefits and the purchase of three new buses,” the superintendent said. “As you can see, even with keeping to a minimal spending increase, we still aren’t receiving increases in foundation aid that allow our revenues to match our expenditures. A 2.9 percent increase in foundation aid ($223,551) from New York state and a 1.81 percent increase in spending ($401,551), will still necessitate a small increase in the tax levy.”
The proposed tax levy increase for the 2019-20 spending plan is about $160,000, or 1.99 percent, which is well below the tax levy limit calculated to be 3.96 percent this year, Migliori said.
“The difference will be made up through increases in expenditure driven aides, namely transportation aid and BOCES,” he said. “As a result of the additional transportation aid we received this year, the purchase of three new buses, if approved, will not necessitate any additional funding to be provided by the district.”
The superintendent said, “Our Board of Education has made it their mission to provide the best programs possible for all kids, while at the same time, limiting the tax levy increase...We will continue to revise our five-year fiscal plan and be vigilant of spending as we plan for what could potentially be smaller increases in foundation aid in subsequent years.”
District residents will also find a separate proposition on the school budget ballot for the purchase of three new buses. Business Administrator Mark Kennedy said the purchase of the three buses, for a total $292,249, will have no tax impact because the district is not financing the purchase.