Albion school budget for 2020-21 doesn’t increase taxes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 April 2020 at 10:24 pm

Tonight’s Albion Board of Education was done online through the Zoom. The district also presented the meeting for the public live through YouTube. Top row from left include Mary Leto, assistant superintendent for instruction; Michael Bonnewell, district superintendent, Derek Vallese, district business administrator; Second row from top: Board of Education members Chantelle Sacco, Elissa Nesbitt, Margy Brown and David Sidari. Third row from top: Board members Kathy Harling (president), Wayne Wadhams, Greg Boose and Linda Weller. Bottom row: Board member Joyce Riley.

District anticipates some mid-year state aid reductions

ALBION — The Albion Board of Education tonight adopted a $36,841,032 school budget, up 3.62 percent or $1,285,522 from the $35,555,510 in 2019-20. The budget keeps the tax levy at $8,449,094 in property taxes, the same as in 2019-20.

This is now the 12th time in the past 14 years the school district has either kept taxes flat or reduced them.

“It’s best at this time to try not to hit up the taxpayers for any more money if we don’t have to,” said Derek Vallese, the district’s business administrator.

The budget is usually voted on by the public the third Tuesday in May, but the election has been pushed back to at least June 1. The governor hasn’t given a directive yet on the specific date for the school elections or the village and library elections except to say they will be later than in May. He moved them back due to concerns about the coronavirus.

The school district’s fiscal year starts July 1. That is also when the new terms start for members of the Board of Education. Three spots are up for election.

The district was able to prevent a tax increase after the state was able to maintain its aid (using $650,000 from the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act).

Albion also will use money from its fund balance and may dip into some reserves to help stave off a tax increase.

The budget comes with some uncertainty in the state aid. Gov. Cuomo said the state will be forced to look at its revenue during the state’s fiscal year and if revenues are off target the state will likely have to reduce its funding to local governments, including school districts. The first revenue review for the state will be on April 30.

“He is certainly in a difficult position, one we can all understand,” said Michael Bonnewell, the district superintendent. “We know the numbers, but the governor has been very clear that he will continually to watch the budget and make adjustments as necessary.”

Bonnewell said the district could absorb some drop in state aid because Albion has “a history of putting money away for a rainy day.”

The state aid also includes $250,000 for a Covid response. With students out of school until at least April 29, some students are expected to need academic intervention services next school year to help catch up. The district is expecting it will need to hire more staff to help students after this prolonged time out of school. (The district has been sending home packets of schoolwork and offering other assignments online.)

“We know coming back from this is going to require some extra energy, which means extra resources,” Bonnewell said during the meeting tonight.

The budget also includes funding for a superintendent’s search with Bonnewell to retire on June 30, 2021.

Albion also is budgeting $85,200 for its share of a grant program to replace school doors and add more security cameras. That expense depends on Albion receiving a COPS grant that covers 75 percent of the cost. The Albion Police Department is applying for the grant with the school district paying the local share.

The grant for a maximum project cost of $500,000, which would be a local share of $125,000. The estimated cost for the work would put the Albion share at $85,200.

• BUS PROPOSITION — The budget vote (when it happens) also will include a proposition to spend up to $525,000 from a bus purchase reserve fund for five new busses. That is a $20,000 increase from last year. Vallese said the cost of steel has gone up, increasing the expense for busses.

• HOAG LIBRARY — Voters also will decide a proposition for Hoag Library to receive $713,000 to be collected by the school district. That is down from the $714,920 in 2019-20.

• BOARD OF EDUCATION — The Board of Education election isn’t a simple matter. The district sought advice from its attorney and the New York State School Boards Association. There are two expired terms that are currently filled by Greg Boose and Joyce Riley who were appointed in July and took the oath of office on Aug. 5. They are filling less than a year of the terms vacated by Steve LaLonde and Marie Snyder.

The election includes those two seats as well as a full five-year term for a seat currently filled by Chantelle Sacco.

The candidate with the most votes will serve immediately following the election until June 30, 2025. The candidate with the second most votes will serve from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2025. The candidate with the third most votes will serve immediately following the election until June 30, 2022.

Petitions for candidates will be available at the district office.

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