AuSable schools won’t rehire some retiring staff

Health insurance rate hike prompts budget crunch

The tax levy increase for AuSable Valley Central School’s 2019-20 budget came in under the state cap, but not without some struggle.

“This was definitely a very difficult year to develop a budget as our planned revenues (the total tax levy and state aid to be received) were much less than just the increase we are witnessing in the health insurance consortium rates alone,” Superintendent Paul Savage said.

AVCS and the other schools in the consortium are seeing a hike of more than 13%, he said — that’s an increase of about $1 million for his district.

“Compare that to what we are receiving in anticipated revenues in the budget,” he said, “(and) it only equals about $686,000.”

So the school board was already dealing with a “significant deficit of over $300,000” before anything else could be addressed in crafting the spending plan, Savage said.

Fund balance

The total proposed budget is $33,860,944, a 2.37% increase in spending over 2018-19.

The accompanying tax levy increase is figured at 2.62%, 0.07% below AVCS’s maximum allowable limit of 2.69%.

To manage that feat, the School Board employed about $700,000 in fund balance, Savage said.

No new programs or staff have been added in the proposed budget.

“We do have teachers/staff retiring which will not be replaced, and in reality some classes may be larger than what we have witnessed in the past few years,” he said.

“We will continue to monitor all spending and review further savings even after the budget is complete.”

The estimated increase to the tax rate is 45 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. On a property valued at $100,000, not including STAR, that would amount to $45 on the annual tax bill.

Increasing challenge

The district saw a minimal increase in state aid for 2019-20, the superintendent said — about $325,000.

“It’s going to continue be a huge challenge each year, especially for higher need rural schools like AVCS to be able to operate as needed/required if this trend of limited state aid continues,” Savage said.

“The gap between lower revenues and rising fixed costs is getting larger for schools and the balancing of the budget even more complicated to accomplish.”

School board

The budget vote is set for noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria at the middle-high school in Clintonville.

Voters will also weigh in on school board candidates. Three three-year seats are up for vote, with three incumbents facing no opposition. Scott R. Bombard is running for Term A, Susan J. Richards for Term B and David B. Whitford for Term C.