Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School
Photo by Keith Lobdell.
Districts can lean on their fund balance as a survival float, but “every piggy bank eventually goes broke,” he said.
The district’s fund balance — accumulated monies that act as a shock absorber against unexpected expenses or revenue shortfalls that could cause an operating deficit — is dropping.
A fiscal cliff, when the fund balance can no longer be relied on as a backup, is projected to hit at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
“We’re lucky to have a forward-looking board,” said Osborne. “But right now, we’re in a holding position.”
Osborne said bridging the gap would require a 12.9 percent increase in the tax levy, making an appeal to the public somewhat improbable, which means Team ELSC will continue to snip away at the budget.
“We have to take a careful look across all areas,” he said.
He said while 73 percent of the school’s costs are staff, the district has already eliminated close to 20 percent of instructional staff and he and the board are extremely hesitant to continue down that route.
Osbourne said he and the board will do as much as they can to trim away at “stuff”— supplies, conference trips, stipends — before they examine possible personnel changes.
The district is “right on the line” in terms of staffing and Osborne advised the board at a meeting last week to tread lightly when making decisions that would affect the livelihood of “even just one person” in the community.
Options batted around by the board at their budget workshop last week included hiring a full-time grant writer who can focus on exploring options for state aid, keeping field trips local and other creative solutions.
Other stop-gaps include renting out classroom space, slashing electives and cutting into sports programs.
Shari Morris, mother of two ELCS students, told Osborne on Monday that if came down to it, she’d rather see the district consolidate its leagues with other schools than cut their athletic programs entirely.