BATAVIA – The retirements of eight teachers and a custodial worker along with a lower-than-expected health insurance rate change have the Batavia School District positioned to stay well under the state-mandated tax cap when it presents its 2016-17 budget to the public in early May.
Business Administrator Scott C. Rozanski was able to shave $434,000 off the expenditures side of ledger as a result of the pending retirements, which account for 80 percent of that amount, and a health insurance rate hike of 2 percent – less than the budgeted amount of 4 percent.
With these latest adjustments, the district’s $44.1 million spending plan calls for a modest increase of 0.4 percent in the tax levy, which translates to an increase of nine cents in the tax rate – or $7.84 for the entire year on a home assessed at $85,000.
The tax hike is well below Batavia’s tax cap number of 1.48 percent.
“We’ve added several positions and we’re still under the cap,” Rozanski said.
The district’s budget includes the addition of a full-time director of instructional technology, a high school math teacher, elementary school teacher, four teacher aides, a late-day security employee at the high school and a custodian.
Superintendent Christopher J. Dailey said the district’s commitment to “conservative budgeting” has been the key factor in staying below the cap during the five years the limit has been in place.
“We take a worst case scenario approach when it comes to state aid,” Dailey said. “We’ve always stayed at 2 (percent) or less – well under what we could go to – because we plan well.”
Dailey said the district is anticipating an increase in state aid this year, but actual figures won’t be determined until November.
Batavia is implementing an ambitious technology program in the fall where all high school students will have access to laptop computers through its grant-supported Smart School Investment Plan.
For the first time, Batavia is taking advantage of a state-approved strategy to “chip away at smaller capital projects,” Rozanski said. The district plans to spend $100,000 to upgrade lighting systems at the high school or to enhance its technology infrastructure.
Previously, the district beefed up its security in terms of equipment and personnel, and it has applied for grants for a school resource officer at the high school, Dailey said.
The superintendent said the district’s participation in the Batavia Pathways to Prosperity initiative already has reaped benefits with last week’s announcement that Buffalo developer Samuel J. Savarino plans to revitalize three acres of blighted property on Ellicott Street.
The district has joined with the City of Batavia and Genesee County to allocate half of its payments in lieu of taxes generated by the increased assessed valuation from redevelopment into a fund to be used to support future projects.
“The increase in valuation won’t be as much as a traditional PILOT, but the reinvestment can only help the district in the long term,” Dailey said. “With 54 percent of our students on free or reduced lunch, we are a district in high need. Anything to create jobs and support the local economy is welcome.”
The School Board is scheduled to vote on the budget on April 19. A public hearing is set for May 10, a week before the public vote.