The  CCS school board held a special meeting Wednesday to vote on the 2014-15 proposed budget. From left, Elizabeth Dillard, Vice President Lillian
The CCS school board held a special meeting Wednesday to vote on the 2014-15 proposed budget. From left, Elizabeth Dillard, Vice President Lillian Herrington, President Paul Baker-Porazinski, Don Boyd and Dr. Thomas Wolski. (Tom Momberg)

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- The Cambridge Central School Board of Education passed a budget that took on no program or staff cuts in a special meeting Wednesday.

The budget allows for adding a new secondary math teacher and a new head of building maintenance mechanic. The 3.02-percent proposed budget increase calls for a 2.77-percent proposed property tax increase.

In a debate over hiring a grant writer between the last budget workshop and the finalized budget, the district was able to save more than $51,000 from its fund balance. The fund balance is the amount of the district's savings it allocates for fluctuation in the budget each year. The projected budget will use about $300,000 of the $800,000 fund balance in next year's budget.

"I was under the assumption that the grant writer was going to be able to generate some funds," said CCS Superintendent Vincent Canini. "Rather than putting it on the levy for the taxpayers to pay, we were going to pay it out of the fund balance."

Canini advised the board to adopt the budget without hiring a grant writer. "I would rather have had a grant writer here as opposed to someone on the outside that has to come in and do the investigation to figure out where everything is, because that's where the time (and money) is going to be spent," he said. "It's better to have somebody who has a vested interest."

Board member Dr. Thomas Wolski expressed disappointment with the decision not to have somebody come in to help find out ways the district can save money and polish up grant requests. "I thought it was a good idea and I thought we should have moved forward with it. I know there is dissention, but I thought this could have ended up making us a lot more money than it was going to cost us," he said.

The board still plans to put somebody on grant-writing detail in the future, but ultimately decided it was not the appropriate time.

CCS Business Manager Beth Coates said most of the $300,000 projected fund balance use for next year will be for necessary building and grounds repairs. Last year, the unrestricted fund balance was used as 3.9 percent of the total budget. Four percent is the legal limit. The projected use of the fund balance for this budget is about 3.19 percent of the total.

The school is short a Gap Elimination Adjustment of $894,000 from the state of New York for this year, of which Canini said he was hoping for the return of at least 50 percent.

"Even though we are done with the budget at the state level, I still think we should bombard all of our representatives as well as the governor's office to return the money," Canini said. "It was initiated when there was a deficit. There is no deficit this year, so the money should have come back to the schools."

Father of three students in CCS and candidate for the May 20 school board election, Neil Gifford said he thinks the proposed budget is fine-tuned, but that he "would encourage the board to figure out how to best articulate what they will get for the 2.77 percent increase in the proposed property tax so that we can get the turnout of parents of the children in the district to come forward and support the budget that you proposed."

In response, board president Paul Baker-Porazinski said the board is not allowed to promote the budget publicly, but "we do need to inform the public as to what the budget is. I think we've accomplished a great deal in the education that we offer, being a small rural district We've managed to do this after (previously) cutting a significant portion of our faculty and staff."

Canini said that he and Coates are always chasing the revenue when doing the budget workshops. He said CCS is one of the few school districts to usually get more revenue than is budgeted.

The board passed the budget four to one, with the dissenting vote made by board member Lillian Herrington.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg