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Massena Central School Board approves $49.1 million spending plan

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MASSENA — The Massena Central School District will present voters in May with a $49.1 million budget that carries a 1.64 percent tax levy increase.

The budget, which was approved by board members during their Thursday night session, also asks voters for permission to purchase five 66-passenger buses at a cost not to exceed $523,705. It uses $3.5 million in fund balance.

The bus purchases will be made through the general fund without the use of bonds, notes or renewal notes, Finance Committee Chairman Loren J. Fountaine said.

The spending plan calls for $202,000 in savings in part by cutting one custodial worker and a half-time nurse. There is also one teacher retirement, he said.

Other savings will come from no longer funding classroom printers.

“Classroom printers will be going away for individual teachers,” Mr. Fountaine said.

Michael Allen from the district’s Technology Department said each classroom has a printer, and those will remain in the rooms. Once they’re no longer usable, they will be removed.

In the interim, he said, teachers can choose to purchase their own ink. “What really costs is toner,” Mr. Allen said.

He noted the school has other areas available for printing.

“We always have centralized printers,” he said, with machines in the main office and labs.

The spending plan also calls for a 50 percent cut in classroom supply budgets, cuts to miscellaneous ancillary supplies and the rental of server space to the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

“When we tasked the administration to meet and come up with $200,000 in cuts, this is where we are right now. It’s subject to change. These cuts are not final. We’re continuing to look at everything. We’re just looking at the final number today,” Mr. Fountaine said.

He said interim Superintendent William H. Flynn had met with administrators to come up with cuts that were as “least invasive as possible to students. The board has felt comfortable using $3.5 million out of our fund balance for next year,” he said.

As officials crafted the budget, Mr. Fountaine said, they were working with numbers that included $635,000 more in state aid than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had proposed. The Gap Elimination Adjustment also decreased by $803,000.

“We hoped it was going to go away altogether, but it didn’t. But it did decrease by $803,000. That means it’s a gain for us,” Mr. Fountaine said.

Foundation aid increased by $454,000, he said, and expense-based aids such as transportation and BOCES increased by $380,000. But building aid decreased by $57,000.

Altogether, he said, state aid was up by $1.58 million compared with the 2013-14 budget.

The 1.65 percent tax levy, or amount to be raised by taxes, increase will bring in $225,000 in revenue. For the owner of a $100,000 home, that would mean a tax increase of approximately $21.

“We all know now that the 2 percent property tax cap is a myth. When you’re looking at a nearly $50 million budget, it’s a drop in the bucket. We’re dependent on state aid,” Mr. Fountaine said.

He said that because the district is staying under the district’s tax cap, Massena taxpayers will be eligible for a refund from the state.

“It’s money that you’ll get back. We don’t know what that will be,” he said.

Resident Paul A. Haggett, who is running for a Board of Education seat, wondered why the district wasn’t planning to bond for the buses rather than take the money out of the general fund.

Mr. Fountaine said that by not bonding, the school was avoiding paying any interest. But, he said, it’s something it is considering for future years.

The district will hold its budget hearing at 6:30 p.m. May 13, with the budget vote scheduled for May 20 at the Massena Community Center.

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