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Heuvelton Central School budget gap grows

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HEUVELTON - Budget discussions at Heuvelton Central School are essentially on hold until the state passes its 2014-2015 fiscal year spending plan with talks at Wednesday’s board of education meeting centering primarily on how best to close a $222,706 hole in their proposed budget.

The school is considering a $12.7 million budget that includes a 2.93-percent tax levy increase, bringing the total levy to $3.14 million. But the budget hole, which is driven primarily from the cost of health insurance according to Superintendent Susan E. Todd, won’t be easy to fix. The district is already planning on applying nearly $1 million in fund balance.

Mrs. Todd said the solution won’t come from raising taxes either, pointing out that in order to fill the budget gap they would need to raise taxes by close eight percent. As it stands the projected 2.93-percent increase is the highest allowed by state law without having to rely on a supermajority community vote.

“So we’ll either have to use fund balance or there are some things in the budget that we might have to cut back on,” she said.

Without getting into specifics, Mrs. Todd said, “Some of it is cutting back on things that we would like to have but don’t necessarily have to have.”

Board Member Thomas A. Nichols said the school should use a combination of cuts, fund balance money and, hopefully, slightly more money from the state to make ends meet.

“It can be worked through without gutting anything,” he said of the budget gap.

The next meeting for the board will be April 9, Mrs. Todd said, adding that they will hopefully be able to discuss the state’s final budget – due Tuesday – at that point.

“Hopefully we’ll know what the [state] Senate and Assembly have decided about the budget to see if there is any more money coming this way,” she said. Currently the school expects to get $6.8 million in state aid.

“I don’t expect a lot,” Mrs. Todd said, “but every little bit would help.”

Talking about the budget gap, Mrs. Todd noted that thanks to the state’s gap elimination adjustment, a budget tool implemented by New York in 2010 that diverts school aid to paying down the state’s deficit, Heuvelton stands to lose $258,140 in aid this year.

“Just get rid of the gap elimination,” she said. “We would be fine. That’s what I’m praying for but I don’t know if it will happen.”

Mrs. Todd said details on the public hearing for the budget will be discussed at the April 9 meeting as well. The budget vote will be held on May 20.

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