Federal COVID-relief funds gave the Greenbush-Middle River District a reprieve in terms of finances— allowing it to transfer dollars into different accounts. But its long-term budget problems still remain. In reaction to that, the Greenbush-Middle River School Board approved administration to make recommendations related to program and position reductions at its January 20 meeting.
“It’s a combination of budget reductions and using one-time (federal relief) money for you to move forward,” GMR Superintendent Larry Guggisberg said.
He plans to bring reduction recommendations to the board at its February meeting and then talk with staff.
The GMR School has a budget of about $4 million, according to Guggisberg.
“At this point in time you need to… understand the demands on your budget and that is to maintain competitive salaries for your teachers and to keep and attract qualified staff,” Guggisberg said. “You need to continue, I believe, (to) offer student programs, extracurricular activities and offerings. And you need to have continuing efficient and cost-effective operations.”
Its current fund balance sits at $421,000, one of the lowest fund balances it has had, Guggisberg said. This is due, he explained, to a declining enrollment. Less enrollment equals less state aid or revenue.
The district will experience costs related to teacher pay, as teachers are expressing the desire to negotiate. It will also experience increases in transportation, food service, buildings and grounds, utilities.
“The problem is… looking at it now and in the future, you have revenue, that’s not going to be sufficient for the level of programs,” Guggisberg said. “In other words, you’ll be deficit spending or continue to deficit spend.”
GMR has about a $500,000 deficit this year and this will be carried over to next year.
Guggisberg explained how this year and part of last year, the school experienced additional COVID-related costs, ones absorbed by Federal Elementary and secondary School Education Relief (ESSER) dollars.
In the first round of ESSER dollars, the school received $41,954 dollars and is estimated to receive $176,045 in the second round. President Joe Biden indicated his intent to introduce legislation related to a third round of COVID relief funding. At that time, it had yet to be determined if public education would be included in this legislation.
Besides coming up with some budget cut recommendations, Guggisberg is also going to look into the criteria the school can use these round one, two, and, perhaps, round three funds to replace funds and continue to move forward with less general fund dollars. He suggested using these ESSER funds, but, as he explained, using these funds won’t fix the school’s long-term issue.
“You have what’s called a structural problem. You have too many teachers for the number of students you have,” Guggisberg said. “The survey that I’m doing will indicate— I’m hoping anyway— what specific areas there will be some reductions and why. So none of this is going to be shooting from the hip. None of this is going to be, well, let’s just see what happens and go from there.”
As for a potential source of revenue, Guggisberg highlighted how the district’s current referendum for next year is in place for November 2, 2021. Compared to a group of area schools, GMR is towards the bottom in total referendum authority and at the bottom in total school taxes paid, Guggisberg explained.
Between now and August, Guggisberg said the board will have to pass a resolution to have an election for a November 2 referendum question.
“You’re going to have to come up with a strategy of what you want to bring forward to your public for a ballot question for a school operating referendum,” Guggisberg said. “It will be the only ballot question out there.”
To see the complete story, read the February 3 issue of The Tribune in print or online.