Weekly Feature

2018-03-08 / Local News

Depew’s proposed budget laid out at board meeting

by AMY ROBB Lancaster/Depew Editor

In Depew’s board meeting last week, Superintendent Jeffrey Rabey outlined information gathered to date for the school district’s proposed budget, with more conclusive numbers on the way once the state’s budget is finalized in April.

Currently, the district’s state aid is due to increase by $444,248 according to Rabey’s report, although this may be updated prior to April 1.

The tax levy is due to increase by $327,991, or 1.87 percent, to $17.9 million; this is the estimated maximum allowable increase, according to the district’s tax cap.

Rabey advised the board it would not be wise to go beyond the cap because of the high risk involved. Sixty percent of voters, rather than a simple majority, must approve a budget if the tax increase exceeds the cap. Few districts have been successful in going over the cap, Rabey said.

With Depew’s Combined Wealth Ratio at 0.646, making the district the seventh lowest out of 23 Erie County school districts, staying within the cap is considered the best way to beat the odds.

Advocacy efforts to even the playing field for school districts include updating the Foundation Aid formula to support multi-year planning for the tax cap, offering mandate relief, and asking the state to allow districts to have a Teachers Retirement System reserve fund, much like municipalities have, to cover pension costs.

“We currently have an [Employee Retirement System] reserve, but we’re also looking for a TRS reserve,” said Rabey.

“For municipalities, 100 percent of their personnel are within the ERS reserve. With a school district, 80 percent of our employees are within the TRS reserve plan, and only 20 percent are in the ERS reserve, so we are hammered by not having that additional reserve.”

A first draft of budget requests included 10 items based on need: $8,500 for the special education program for field trips and additional supplies; $46,522 from Cayuga Heights Elementary to pay for classroom furniture, an art kiln and an additional cafeteria monitor; and $15,884 requested by the high school to be used for furniture, professional development, supplies and an increase in supervision hours.

Other budget requests included upgrading Chromebooks, which have outdated servers and switches, districtwide cameras and wiring for added security, and replacing fuel pumps for the bus garage.

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