Use Of Fund Balance Is A One-Year Fix For Clymer School Officials

Ed Bailey, Clymer Central School superintendent, and the rest of the Clymer Central School Board of Education have every right to be confused by the messages being sent by district residents.

In December, Clymer residents decided not to continue merger talks with the Panama Central School District, with one of the biggest issues being Clymer residents wouldn’t have seen as much financial benefit as Panama residents because of the large difference in taxable assessment between the two districts. Clymer residents were happy with their school district’s offerings and didn’t want to upset the applecart if a merger wasn’t going to save significant money. So, this spring, Bailey and the school board put together a budget they thought would keep the school’s class offerings while dealing with the financial repercussions of the failed merger. Positions that were shared with Panama ended with the merger, so Clymer had to add those positions back into its budget. The total cost for following the community’s perceived marching orders was a 13 percent tax levy increase.

Clymer residents’ approved the budget by one vote, far less than the 60 percent supermajority needed to exceed the state’s 2 percent tax cap. Bailey and the school board find themselves in an unenviable position — half of the community wants things to remain the same regardless of the cost while the other half supports having Clymer remain on its own but still wants the district to live within some measure of fiscal sanity. Faced with the choice of budget cuts they knew would upset half the populace or a 13 percent tax levy increase that upset the other half of the populace, district officials have chosen to mortgage the district’s future to pay its bills today by sending the same spending plan to voters to be approved on June 19 and using $357,192 of the district’s fund balance to lower the tax increase to 4 percent.

It seems to be the only logical move given the split in the Clymer community, but make no mistake about it — such a large appropriation from the fund balance is only a one-year fix that creates an automatic hole in next year’s budget. Clymer officials didn’t have to make painful cuts to programs this year. Next year, they may have no choice.