Ken-Ton facing looming budget deficit - The Buffalo News
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Ken-Ton facing looming budget deficit

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda school district presented a status update Tuesday night on its 2014-15 budget now totaling approximately $155.7 million, which requires a climb out of a nearly $7.3 million hole.

Officials repeatedly emphasized during the work session that the budget for the school districts is still a work in progress.

“This is a snapshot of where we are right now,” said Gerald J. Stuitje, assistant superintendent for finance.

He blamed the looming deficit on annual state aid that has been reduced by $7.5 million since 2008-09. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget calls for $40.3 million in state aid to Ken-Ton for 2014-15 – not including building aid – compared with $47.8 million in 2008-09.

“It’s very difficult to see, year after year, the state not making up the difference of what they’ve taken away,” Stuitje said after the session.

Specifically, officials singled out the gap elimination adjustment, or GEA, which is expected to cost Ken-Ton an additional $7.1 million in state aid next year. The GEA is money the state deducts from districts to fill its budget gap.

“If the gap elimination adjustment went away, we are balanced right now,” Stuitje said.

The board at a special meeting Saturday adopted a resolution calling on the state to immediately eliminate the GEA, which has reduced the district’s aid by more than $33 million over five years.

“Education is no longer about how to improve and how to make things better,” Stuitje said after the session. “It’s now about what cuts are going to do the least harm and that’s a sorry state to be in.”

There’s much work to be done on the budget before April 8, the date the School Board expects to adopt it. No one spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s session.

Modest year-to-year budget increases were requested by the transportation; buildings and grounds; athletics and physical education; and information technology departments.

“For the size of their budgets, that’s doing very well,” Stuitje said.

A proposition to buy some buses is expected to be on the May 20 ballot along with the budget proposal.

There’s a pitch to buy four 65-passenger buses and four 29-passenger buses for a total of $685,000. State aid is expected to cover 70 percent of that.

In other business, the board voted to hire the Warner Center at the University of Rochester as consultants for its superintendent search. Mark P. Mondanaro announced last month he is retiring this summer.

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