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Maryvale School Board forced to dip into reserve fund

An unexpected kink in the Maryvale School District transportation budget will result in the use of $800,000 in reserves to balance next year’s overall spending plan.

Assistant Superintendent Stephen Lunden shared the bad news with the Board of Education on Monday night, explaining that the district’s contract with First Student for busing had to be put out to bid, resulting in the awarding of a new contract that will be about $1 million more than this year’s.

Lunden said that while the contract had expired several years ago, First Student agreed to an annual cost increase equal to the cost of inflation. When company officials recently told the district they no longer could afford the deal, the rebidding process began.

First Student offered the lowest bid, but the price tag for next year will be 65 percent more than it is this year. While the home-to-school portion of student busing will increase about 22 percent, the portion to transport those who go to private, parochial and charters schools will rise about 153 percent. The figures did not sit well with trustees.

“It’s almost gouging,” Trustee Margaret J. Bourdette said.

Lunden offered several methods to close the gap, including cutting programs and personnel, dipping into reserve funds and/or budgeting $276,000 more in anticipated state aid. The board agreed to the latter two, moving $800,000 from the reserves and hoping for more money from Albany.

The district will receive about $800,000 in transportation aid from the state, but that will not be released until 2016-17. Lunden assured trustees that when the funding is received, they will be able to replenish the reserve fund.

The fund currently stands at about $1.5 million, which is roughly the 4 percent of the overall budget that state law allows. Lunden strongly urged the board to use half now because it would get that half back later.

Lunden also discussed preliminary budget figures, saying that the 2015-16 budget stands at about $40.69 million, up about 6 percent from this year’s $38.34 million adopted budget. The proposed tax levy is about $19.85 million, up 2.49 percent from this year’s $19.37 million levy.

This meets the district’s allowable tax levy increase after the state formula is applied.

Also during the meeting, it was announced that Julianne Renczkowski has resigned her board seat. Renczkowski, who was on the board for two years, did not attend. The board decided to put her seat up for election during the annual School Board Election and Budget Vote on May 19.