Southwestern Approves 2019-20 Budget

The Southwestern School Board of Education approved its proposed 2019-20 school budget it will take to district voters on May 21. The budget features a 1.5 percent tax levy increase within the state allowed tax cap of 1.57 percent. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

The Southwestern Central School District anticipated an increase in foundation aid in the range of $100,000 to $150,000. However when New York state announced the increase was much less, the district had to reorganize the 2019-20 proposed school budget.

The Southwestern School Board of Education approved the 2019-20 proposed school budget totalling $29,207,170, a $519,636 increase from the 2018-19 enacted school budget of $28,687,534. The total budget is a 1.8 increase from the previous year. The budget features a 1.5 percent tax levy increase within the state allowed tax cap of 1.57 percent for Southwestern. In total, the tax levy will increase $192,516 totalling 13,026,878 for the 2019-20 school year, if approved by the community on May 21.

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the initial proposal to the state executive budget in January, Southwestern was set to receive an $80,000 increase in foundation aid from the 2018-19 school year. Typically, the proposed amount of foundation aid a school is set to receive increases from the state’s proposal to the official budget in April. This year was not an exception to that norm, but the district received merely an $8,000 increase from January to April.

“I think it restrained us … ,” said Maureen Donahue, Southwestern superintendent. “We had to dip into more reserves than we were comfortable and we had to go out with a 1.5 (percent) tax levy (increase). We take any type of tax levy (increase) serious.”

Donahue said the district, if the state followed its original state aid formula from 2009-10, is short around $500,000 of foundation aid.

When the state’s budget was officially approved on April 1, Southwestern had to make adjustments to its budget. One major change was the appropriation of an additional $100,000 from the fund balance to balance the proposed budget. The fund balance appropriation totals $650,000.

Donahue said additional cuts were made to the budget that did not impact positions or programs within the district. She maintained the cuts were designed to protect the instructional portion of the district.

Despite the changes, Donahue is still satisfied with the current proposal.

“I think it’s a fair budget. I think it keeps our budget intact and I think it’s a reasonable increase,” she said. “I’m happy to meet with anybody that has questions.”

The board-approved budget features funding to begin the process of possibly acquiring a school resource officer and working with BOCES to add a community care specialist that will work with students on social and emotional health, Donahue said. That process won’t begin until the budget is official.

“If the budget’s approved, then we can start that process,” she said.

District voters will also be voting on several bus purchases when they take to the polls next month. The board approved five vehicle purchases including two 66-passenger buses totalling $251,078, one 60-passenger bus totalling $135,454, one 30-passenger bus totalling $70,374 and one six-passenger bus totalling $40,000.