WELLSVILLE ã The Wellsville Central School Board approved its budget for next year by a 5-to-1 margin at its Wednesday night meeting.
However, before the final vote, Board Chair Sherry Walton and Superintendent Byron Chandler expressed dissatisfaction that the budget needed to be approved with such a cut in state aid, and before the state budget not be approved.
“We need to let Albany know what our predicament is here,” Ms. Walton said. “We have to let them know we got it.”
Dr. Chandler expanded on Ms. Walton’s comments.
“The major problem is that poorer districts have a higher tax burden,” Dr. Chandler said. Explaining the state aid cuts, which have affected many local school districts, he said a district like Ellicottville lost $278,000 in state aid, a 9.5% drop. However, the local tax increase needed to compensate for this loss was only 3.4%. Meanwhile, according to Dr. Chandler, the Salamanca school district lost about 5% of its aid and had to raise taxes by almost 20% to raise the equivalent funds.
“It demonstrates the inequity of the system,” Dr. Chandler said.
In Wellsville, decreasing state aid and increasing taxes fall somewhere between the two aforementioned districts.
The total tax increase that accompanies the proposed budget at this stage is 12%. However, the expenditure budget only increased by 1.7%.
Dr. Chandler said the district won’t be able to accurately predict the budget’s impact on the tax rate until the amount of state assistance is finalized.
Meanwhile, in reducing the budget to its current total, the district has made multiple cuts. Two retirees will not be replaced, a part-time music teacher will be cut, a bus driver will have a reduced number of routes and several other departments will also be cut. Specifically, the district made cuts to elementary, middle, and high school staff as well as athletics, BOCES, and maintenance budgets, saving $390,000.
“The harsh reality is that the 12% we achieved is a very reasonable increase,” Dr Chandler said, adding that getting the 12% increase down to single digits would be a monumental task.
“It would be irresponsible and almost impossible to go that low, I believe,” he said.
Ms Walton added, however, that the council will continue to cut the budget and save as much money as possible.
“The public should know that we will do more, even though we have done what we can do so far,” she said.