Mayfield budget shortfall prompts lobbying effort

MAYFIELD-Due to a predicted $478,000 budget deficit for the 2016-17 school year, the Mayfield Central School District has formed a committee to lobby state officials to restore funding cut from the district.

Mayfield School District Superintendent Jon Peterson said his district is still missing $184,798 in funding cut due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment and that money would help fill the district’s projected budget deficit for the 2016-17 school year.

According to a press release on the district’s website, the state does not plan to restore the cut funding to Mayfield for the 2016-17 school year.

“In 2010, the state began the GEA program as a way of filling its budget deficit each year by reducing every school district’s funding,” stated Peterson in the news release.

On Tuesday Peterson issued the first draft of the 2016-17 budget at the district’s school board meeting. The draft budget would spend $17.7 million budget for the 2016-17 school year, but projects a $478,000 deficit in revenues.

Peterson said convincing the governor and state legislators to help restore the GEA is his biggest point of action in filling the gap.

“We are going to the governor to get all of the GEA restored. We are lobbying strongly. Some schools have already had it restored,” Peterson said.

According to the release, a low rate of inflation last year is causing school districts across the state to be held to a low or negative school tax levy increase under the state tax cap for the 2016-17 school year.

Peterson said at the school board meeting that Mayfield will be allowed to raise $48,000 less in taxes than it did for the 2015-16 school year- a cut of 0.66 percent to the tax levy.

A district is allowed to exceed their tax levy limits with a 60 percent approval vote by the community. Mayfield’s school board isn’t interested in doing that, Peterson said at the meeting. A one percent increase in the tax levy adds $72,700 to the district’s budget, the release explained.

Peterson said the district will be working on expenditures and other ways to increase revenue. One of his suggestions was increasing the tuition for non-resident students. The district is looking for grants and other ways to fund the budget, he said.

“The first draft looks grim. We have a decreasing tax levy and the state is still holding back $184,000 (in GEA funding). That has put us in a tough spot where our revenues will have to increase in some way or there will be cuts,” Peterson said in the release.

Since 2010 the district has eliminated or reduced 18 full-time positions. Peterson said seven others have been reduced to part-time.

The Mayfield school board has formed a comittee its calling the “Presidential Committee” to lobby the state. The Presidential Committee includes the presidents of the district’s three labor unions, the school board president and the superintendent. The group has worked on a letter-writing campaign aimed at restoring the full GEA for Mayfield. The first letter was sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna and Assemblyman Mark Butler, R-Newport, according to the release. The letter can be read on the district’s website.

Peterson said he plans to lobby the legislators on March 8.

“We are certainly optimistic that [the funds] will be restored,” Peterson said.

The BOA’s next meeting is March. 15. Peterson said they will be discussing the budget, which is expected to be adopted on April 19.

The public hearing on the budget proposal will be held on May 10.

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