School is up; MCS facing cuts

By Joe Moskowitz
It’s school budget season as area administrators try to figure out how to pay for ever-increasing expenses while limiting tax hikes. This year, because New York State is in better financial shape than in recent years, there is some help coming from Albany, but bridging the budget gap is still a daunting task.

Margaretville Central School will get a total of $2,933,699 in state aid in the 2013-14 school year. That’s an increase of 6.50 percent, or $179,032 over the previous year. That helps, but MCS Superintendent Tony Albanese says that is not going to be enough to offset other mandated increased expenses, such as healthcare and pensions.

Staff cuts likely
Even with a targeted levy increase of around 3.7 percent, there will likely have to be staff
reductions.

It could have been worse. Last year MCS was faced with a “Gap Elimination Adjustment” of $509,000. This year the adjustment is reduced to $409,000. The gap elimination is the state’s way of saying it doesn’t have the money to pay all of its bills and last year it took back more than half-a-million dollars that would have gone to MCS. This year it will take back $100,000 less.
Roxbury Central School will get a 7.84 percent hike in total state aid. RCS will get a total of $3,007,661. The RCS Gap Elimination remains the same at $222,000. Andes is the big state aid winner. It will get $809,307. That represents an 18.5 percent increase in state aid.

Unfair to taxpayers
If MCS administrators and taxpayers think those numbers are unfair, they need to look at the amount of money some other Delaware County schools of similar size are getting. South Kortright Central School will get more than $4 million in state aid and Charlotte Valley (Davenport) will receive $5,403,238. That’s $2.5 million more than Margaretville.

Artificial wealth
Albanese says it is because the state says Margaretville is a “real estate” wealthy district. According to the state formula, the property values in the MCS District should make it easier for the school to pay its bills on its own. But, Albanese says 58 percent of MCS students qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches. That is not an indication of a wealthy district.

Meanwhile, Albanese and Treasurer Karen Dietrich will go over the numbers and brief the board of education at its next meeting in two weeks.