Panama Board Approves Budget

The Panama Central School Board of Education approved its 2019-20 proposed school budget of $12,904,396. The total budget is a reduction from the 2018-19 school year. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

PANAMA — The Panama Central School Board of Education supported a reduced 2019-20 proposed school budget that it will present for a vote to the community.

The proposed 2019-20 school budget is $12,904,396, a reduction of $971,905 from the 2018-19 school year. The 2018-19 enacted school budget totalled $13,876,301 with the upcoming year’s budget featuring a 7 percent reduction.

The board’s approval during Monday’s meeting also supported a flax tax levy of zero percent. Mirroring the previous year, the tax levy going into next year will hold steady at $3,261,524.

“(The budget) is reduced because we have a building project that is coming off the rolls,” said Bert Lictus, Panama superintendent, regarding the budget proposal’s reduction from last year. “We have a flat tax levy once again. I think that we’ve done a good job balancing district needs and ability to pay. I think that it’s a really solid budget the taxpayers are going to really like.”

Included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s enacted legislative budget, the district will receive $6,552,702 for the 2019-20 school year in foundation aid, up $132,449 from the $6,420,253 of foundation aid received in the 2018-19 school year.

In terms of the district’s overall position, Lictus said “we’re happy.”

The community will vote on the proposed budget May 21. A budget hearing will be held at the school on May 7 where community members can ask questions about the district’s financial situation.

In other news, Emily Harvey, director of instruction, addressed the statewide 3-8 ELA computer based testing, or CBT. Harvey said because the district prolonged the start time to the district beginning its online testing, Panama observed no issues or glitches. Other school districts in the county experienced delays, inability to log in students and issues submitting tests.

Outrage throughout the state began during the second day of the most recent testing when more and more school districts began to log on to the contractor Questar Assessment’s online system. A “non-testing day” was issued for the third day and further testing was staggered to avoid potential glitches.

The district will continue with CBT for the upcoming ELA Math assessments for grades 5-8.

Later in the meeting, Lictus began the conversation of planning for Panama’s future regarding its direction, the future of shared sports and potential capital projects.

“What I want to start the conversation about and what I’m asking the board to do is to start thinking about the long-range planning (of the district),” he said.

Lictus listed numerous areas of need regarding construction projects including the parking lot, roof repair needs and other physical plant needs.

“I think that we need to reflect on where we’re going and maybe the direction we want to go,” he said.

Additionally, Lictus asked the board to begin thinking about if its many shared sports programs have been successful and whether they should continue. He asked the board to weigh the negatives and positives of shared programming.