By Michelle Miller
The Daily Star
---- — The Milford Central School board of education has yet to adopt a budget for the 2013-14 school year. The action to do so has been tabled until the next meeting, which is scheduled for April 25.
At the April 11 meeting, Superintendent Peter Livshin recommended a budget that would have a 4.68 percent increase from the 2012-13 spending plan of $9,033,363. If his proposal is adopted, the tax levy would be increased by 3.81 percent — the maximum cap threshold set by the state before needing a supermajority vote for approval.
According to Livshin, the district found itself in the hole by more than $450,000 at the beginning of the budget process. Livshin said he anticipates having to cut three full-time teachers, one licensed teacher aid and seven aids. MCS also will not replace two teachers who plan to retire.
Other things school officials have discussed cutting include non-varsity sports, building usage after school hours, a part-time librarian that is contracted through the Northern Otsego Catskills Board of Cooperative Educational Services and providing incentives to teachers who are eligible to retire.
The district chose to use $500,000 in reserves last year to stay below the 2 percent cap. Livshin said the board could still chose to stay below the cap and go with a proposal that calls for a 2.84 tax levy increase. However, he is recommending taking the little more than $36,000 difference (between the 3.81 and 2.84 proposed tax levy increases) and putting it in the special education budget.
“Because we cannot have a special education reserve, that is really the only way we can protect ourselves,” he said.
School boards can present a budget that requires a levy that exceeds the cap, but will need a higher margin of voter approval. Instead of the majority vote (50 percent plus one), the threshold for voter approval is 60 percent.
If a budget is voted down, a school has one more chance to present a revised spending plan. If it is unsuccessful twice, then schools have to comply with contingency budget restrictions.
The board will go over what a contingency budget would look like at its next meeting.
“That will be a bloodbath because you’re talking about another $200,000 or more that will have to be knocked out of the budget,” Livshin said. “If that were to happen we may have to close the doors.”
Livshin said his school is in a “whole lot of trouble,” and believes rural and small city schools have been short-changed for years on state aid. He said money continues to flow to rich districts.
In the last four year, MCS has lost about 1.72 million in aid because of the gap elimination adjustment. The GEA is a reduction in school aid by the state to reduce the state deficit.
“We are not alone,” Livshin said. “Some of our neighboring districts have lost less and some have lost more.
“Yes, we went through a recession and there was no money there, but the state continues to use the gap elimination adjustment as a hammer and it hammers us,” Livshin continued.
Since the state budget passed, MCS has learned it will get close to $223,000 in gap elimination adjustment. However the district treasurer, Linda Wenz, said that still leaves nearly $295,000 that the district could really use.
“It’s a mess,” Livshin said. “The funding in New York state is not equitable in any way, shape or form. It is becoming the more haves versus have-nots. This is not a downstate versus upstate issue. It is a rich versus poor issue because there were some districts in Long Island that lost a good portion of their aid and there are district in Westchester County such at Mount Vernon that are high-poverty districts as well.”
Livshin said he feels the governor needs to take a hard look at the gap elimination aid as well as how foundation aid is distributed.
MCS is also looking into replacing its two boilers. One has died and the other is dying, according to Livshin. It is likely the school will have to go through a small building project to replace the 25-year-old boilers. School officials said the fumes from the boiler that is “on its last legs” are getting bad.