Massena Central School faces tough financial road over next five years, committee says
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - 9:01 am

MASSENA -- At the Massena Central School District’s regular board meeting Oct. 18, the board’s finance committee presented a five-year look into the district’s fiscal future.

According to the estimates, the district may find itself with a rapidly growing budget gap over the next few years.

“This information gives us a rough picture of where we are and where we will be in the very near future. Using this data we can make sound budget decisions” said Finance Committee Chairman Michael LeBire.

The committee estimated a 4.5 percent annual increase in salaries, an 8.5 percent increase in benefit expenses, and a 2 percent increase in other costs. The increases are only partially offset by an estimated 2 percent increase in both state aid and local property taxes. With costs exceeding revenue, the district faces large budget gaps.

The current 2012-13 $46 million spending plan uses an estimated $4 million of the district’s available reserves to close this year’s budget gap. In future years, the difference between projected expenses versus projected revenues is significant equates to approximately a $1.5 million shortfall—a shortfall that continues year after year on top of the $4 million shortfall that currently exists. The data shows that the district will spend the majority of available reserves by the 2014-15 school year.

Without savings, the district will then have two options—cut academic and extracurricular programs or seek a supermajority to approve a tax increase above the district’s tax levy limit. If state aid stays at the projected 2 percent annual increase and the district maintains its current programs then local property taxes would need to increase 101 percent over the next five years to bridge the budget gaps.

“Neither option is acceptable,” said Mr. LeBire.

“Everyone needs to understand that this is just a planning document. No one is saying the sky is falling, but we do see tough times ahead. This conversation tonight forces us to look into the future and start charting a course that best protects our students, our employees and our community.”