Albion will try to close school budget gap

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 March 2014 at 12:00 am

District plans new playground for elementary school

ALBION – The school district has a relatively small budget gap that it is working to close before the spending plan is approved by the Board of Education next month.

The district has a $139,000 gap to close if it doesn’t want to raise taxes and still maintain the same level of staff and programming. The district could reduce the gap if the State Legislature directs more state aid to Albion, compared to what Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his budget.

The governor’s budget in January gave Albion about $330,000 more in state aid, just shy of a 2 percent increase. The state Legislature has historically tended to provide more than the governor’s proposal, but those increases have been relatively small increases in recent years.

“That’s not a large gap compared to the past,” Shawn Liddle, the district’s assistant superintendent of business, said about $139,000.

If Albion’s state aid is unchanged from the governor’s budget and it makes no other reductions, property owners would be looking at a 1.6 percent tax increase, which is already under the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap.

School administrators and Board of Education will continue to look for ways to pare expenses, Liddle said. He expects the Board of Education to approve a budget on April 7. That will then go before voters in May.

The district’s budget gap is relatively small partly because five veterans teachers and staff are retiring. They will either be replaced with less experienced employees at lower salaries or those positions may not be filled at all, Liddle said.

“We’re continuing to look at our staffing levels,” he said this morning.

The 2013-14 budget totaled $33.3 million. That budget included a 1.5 percent tax increase, the first time Albion raised taxes since the 2006-07 school year. The tax levy, at $8,446,946, is down compared to the $9,094,194 levy in 2006-07.

Liddle discussed the budget during Monday’s Board of Education meeting. The BOE also recognized Freeze-Dry Foods in Albion. George Lawson, the company’s general manager, was picked as a “Friend of Education.”

Freeze-Dry is storing new playground equipment for the elementary school at the company’s East Avenue site, the former Lipton’s in Albion. The district was able to buy the equipment at a discount but didn’t have its own space to store it during the winter.

The new playground includes painted steel posts and plastic decking and slides. It will replace a playground with a lot of wooden pieces. The new playground should be installed in the spring or summer, Liddle said.