Massena board discusses state split, fund balance

Patrick Brady

MASSENA — It’s not a surefire thing, but if New York ever divided into two states, the Massena Central School District would be closing its doors.

In a budget presentation during Thursday’s board of education meeting, Superintendent Patrick Brady said more than 80 percent of the state’s personal income tax receipts come from New York City and the five suburban counties, and that has an impact on the tax base throughout the state.

Some lawmakers have introduced bills over the years that would split new York into two states — New York City and its suburbs as one state and the other 53 counties as another state.

That was a concern for Finance Committee Chairman Loren Fountaine.

“Over 70 percent of our budget comes from state aid. Without New York City and those counties, we would be sunk,” he said. “If that happened, the Massena School District would be done without that tax base. It’s important to realize that.”

Mr. Fountaine said he was also concerned about the use of the unappropriated fund balance to balance the budget every year. Mr. Brady said they had used $1.57 million to balance the 2019-20 budget and were currently looking at 2.37 million for the 2020-21 budget. But that was likely to change.

“It’s early in the process. We anticipate receiving some additional state aid,” Mr. Brady said. “Usually we do. It’s hard to tell this year with the budget deficit.”

“Every year we’re dipping into the reserves,” Mr. Fountaine said. “That is not a long-term solution that can happen for eternity.”

Mr. Brady said, based on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s state aid proposal, the district was looking at a $2.4 million gap between revenues and expenditures. He said they’re currently looking at a preliminary tax levy of 3.91 percent, but that was not what the Finance Committee would be recommending in the final budget. Every 1 percent increase equals $145.423.

Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposal includes an increase of $826 million in total school aid, which includes a $504 million increase in foundation aid. The state School Boards Association has recommended a $2 billion increase in school aid.

Under the governor’s budget proposal, Massena would see an increase of $486,608 in foundation aid, an increase of $408,877 in expense-based aid and a decrease of $99 in building aid, for a total state aid increase of $895,386. There would be no change in the community schools aid, which is included in the foundation aid.

Mr. Brady said one of his concerns is that the governor has proposed including expense-based aid with foundation aid. Expense-based aid for items such as transportation, equipment and Board of Cooperative Educational Services programs are currently separate from foundation aid. The aid is paid the year after the expense is incurred.

The change, if it took effect, would not impact the district this year.

“We’re very concerned about that. Some of those (aids) are less predictable in the future,” he said.

The district will hold another public forum to discuss the budget at 7 p.m. March 19 in room 314 at the high school. The board of education will be asked to adopt the budget on April 20, and the public budget hearing will be held on May 7. The budget vote will be held on May 19.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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