By Rich Place

The Springville Griffith-Institute Board of Education on Tuesday heard in-depth presentations on the potential capital project that would bring P-TECH programming to Springville and also a line-by-line update on the district’s budget development.

School business administrator Maureen Lee and district treasurer Sara Kennison outlined work on the 2018-19 school budget, which is currently a $38.82 million spending plan, an increase of $1.98 million compared to the current budget.

“I’m proud of this budget, a lot of work went into it — a lot of good, collaborative work,” Lee told the board. “I know it takes us to the top limit of the (tax) cap but, as you can see, we had some real challenges this year.”

Some of the increase is due to an unconventional jump in special education, board members learned, as six special education students entered the district after the start of the school year, according to Superintendent Kimberly Moritz. She called it the “most difficult issue this year financially.”

“It is absolutely our responsibility and obligation to educate those students to the best of our ability and sometimes there’s a high price tag with that,” Moritz said. “That’s what we got hit with this year. So those students remain ours for next year and so you see the budget reflect that.”

The students with disabilities line of the budget jumped from $3.78 million in 2017-18 to a projected $4.89 million next year. The largest jump in that aspect of the budget is an $809,418 in BOCES services.

By going line-by-line through the budget — an intense, hour-long process — school board members noticed several areas that were redistributed, the result of a tag-team effort by Lee and Kennison to better attribute personnel costs to the right budget lines.

“It was a lot of digging in, a lot of sorting, putting the puzzle together as Sara likes to do,” Lee said.

There were also some decreases in equipment costs throughout the budget, as well as decreases to some BOCES services costs. Lee said the budget planning process was collaborative amongst department heads and principals.

“Because we really encouraged them to give us their feedback on what they really needed to operate their portion of the district, we feel that we’re bringing to you the most thoughtful and cost efficient plan we can,” she said.

Kennison presented the revenue aspect of the budget, which includes a transfer of $314,729 from the retirement reserve, $636,123 from the reserve for bonded debt and $400,000 from the appropriated fund balance, the latter of which is a $240,000 decrease from the current year.

“Last year it had to be increased in order for the budget to balance,” Kennison said of the appropriate fund balance amount. “This year we wanted to bring it back down to … what we wanted it to be going forward. We want to get it a little lower, but going down is a good sign.”

The board is expected to discuss the budget further at its next meeting March 20. Adoption must take place by April 21 and a public hearing is expected to take place May 1. The school budget and board member vote is May 15.

Also at the meeting, the board heard an extended presentation on a potential $14.73 million capital project that will bring the recently discussed P-TECH program to Springville through a partnership with Erie 2 BOCES and Alfred State College.

The presentation — which discussed concept, project design, cost and implementation — was conducted by a handful of project officials to prepare the board for a vote at its next meeting on whether to put the project up for a districtwide vote in May. The project would allow for the P-TECH program to be housed inside the district office building, where renovations would be needed.

A large portion of the hour-long presentation focused on the cost and the impact on taxpayers. Karen Moon, a financial advisor from Bernard P. Donegan, presented to discuss that aspect, which was a bit unconventional than traditional capital projects due to the collaboration with Erie 2 BOCES and Alfred State.

“This is a Springville building and a Springville capital project,” Moritz told the board. “But it will be leased for an Erie 2 BOCES program. So the lease BOCES pays will cover this local share.”

So while the project won’t have any direct impact on taxes, as Moritz had previously stated, a portion of the project not covered by state aid will be paid for by BOCES, which is split amongst the 27 Erie 2 BOCES school districts, including Springville.

Moon estimated about $23,000 annually will be Springville’s share of the project, before it receives roughly 66 percent aid on that figure, according to roughly estimated numbers at the meeting on Tuesday.

The board is expected to vote March 20 on whether to move forward with a referendum to district voters on the project. Nick Humphrey, of Campus Construction, noted that should the project be approved by the board, community presentations to educate the public about the project would be held until a mid-May vote. The current timeline has these renovated buildings open by August 2020.

The SGI School Board is scheduled to meet next at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20 in the library and media center at the high school.