November 14, 2012


Auditor: City school reserves healthy

Staff Reporter

The city school district has healthy reserve funds as the Board of Education begins planning the 2013-14 budget, the district’s auditor said Tuesday.
Raymond Wager told the board that its use of reserves in recent years has been prudent and enough remains to help for the next three years, where some districts have only enough money left for two years.
School districts have been digging into reserves to make up for lost state aid and tax revenue, in crafting their budgets.
The board voted to move $900,000 from this year’s undesignated fund balance to the retirement contribution reserve, to help pay for expected increases in the district’s percentage of the Employee Retirement System.
The shift brought the retirement reserve to $3,027,828 and dropped the undesignated fund balance to $1,731,901.
The nine reserve funds total $14.8 million. Not all of those reserves can be used by the district to balance its budget.
“Reserves are more important than ever,” Wager said.
The board’s Budget Committee met before the regular meeting to review the reserves with Wager. Its next meeting is Dec. 11, to form a draft budget based on this year’s.
Two budget planning meetings are scheduled each month through May.
The vote on the budget meeting schedule was 5-1, with Bill Stark absent and Donald Colongeli voting no. Colongeli would not tell other board members why he voted no.
In other business, the board approved an extended field trip to France and Spain for Feb. 15-24, for 26 students and four teachers.
The board had discussed the field trip several times since the school year began, as Superintendent of Schools Michael Hoose wanted to make sure the trip followed the district policy of one teacher chaperone per eight students.
Board member Janet Griffin wanted the teachers to be tenured, saying a nontenured teacher would be vulnerable to being fired if students got into trouble during the trip.
The cost is $2,979 per student. The students raised the money for the trip or are having their parents pay.
The board approved two education plans that will help Cortland Junior-Senior High School and Parker Elementary School students improve their performance on state assessment tests. The two were named “focus schools” by the state Education Department last spring.
The board approved a contract with the city to plow and salt parking lots and bus loops at five of the school buildings. Virgil Elementary School is plowed by the town of Virgil. The cost was not available.
The cost for plowing varies from $255 per hour to $383 per hour, with three of the schools requiring three hours to plow. Salting costs $248 per hour for all buildings.
Colongeli asked why the district does not plow its own lots. Hoose said it does not have the equipment to do it the best, although the district plows sidewalks.
Board member Bill Young said the district has contracted with the city for a few years now and has saved money.
The total cost for the district was $26,868 in 2010-11 for 14 plowings and 51 saltings, but the cost dropped in 2011-12 to $4,828 for six plowings and $5,484 for 21 saltings, because last winter was so mild.


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