Hearing set for Cambridge school budget

Friday April 12, 2013


Staff Writer

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- With some additional funding and more favorable aid ratios, Cambridge Central School appears to be turning the corner after years of fiscal straits.

The district’s proposed 2013-14 budget maintains programming, funds a full regular sports schedule, and adds instructional staff. School board members unanimously approved the $18,834,267 spending plan at a budget session Wednesday. District residents will vote on the proposal May 21.

A budget hearing is scheduled for May 14 at 7 p.m.

With New York’s state budget approved last month, school officials had to discuss how to allocate an additional $274,881 in funding above and beyond the governor’s January proposal. "The board agreed to reinstate staff," Business Administrator Beth Coates said.

Approximately six positions could be added -- most instructional. The positions will be decided by administrators at a future date. Coates said the added staff would make a difference especially in the elementary through lower class sizes.

"The board was very concerned with meeting the students’ instructional needs," board President Kerri Brown said Thursday. Given a prioritized list of options, "everyone agreed that was the priority."

"We were all on the same page," she continued.

Entering this year’s budget season, the school’s deficit totaled a little more than $1 million. The spending plan allocates $273,861 in new taxes -- a year-over-year increase of 3.56 percent, or 52 cents more per $1,000 of true property value -- and $800,000 from unreserved fund balance.

That amount of fund balance is the same appropriated for 2012-13, and Coates said up to two-thirds of that amount may be put back into reserves at the end of this school year because of fiscally sound decision-making, like leveraging state aid and other revenue sources.

Seemingly faced with a less dire situation this year, Coates said that was "because we’ve made drastic cuts in the previous two."

"I think we’re starting to turn the corner on the (Combined Wealth Ratio)," or CWR -- the basic component used in most state aid formulas that looks at local incomes and property values.

Administrators previously blamed a valuation "bubble" in 2009 for making the district look artificially wealthy.

A bill currently in the state Legislature would substitute more recent, lower property valuations in Cambridge’s CWR, thereby further boosting state funding.

"We hit the wall sooner than other schools, and now we’re getting out of it," Coates said.

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