Dunkirk Board of Education hears preliminary budget numbers

The Dunkirk Board of Education met Thursday to discuss the 2019-2020 district budget.

Preliminary discussions took place on Thursday night to begin addressing the 2019-2020 Dunkirk City School District’s $45 million budget.

The presentation, given by Business Manager Cindy Mackowiak, highlighted areas of concern for the district, most notably, the lost revenue from the NRG restructured PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreement and the loss of the mitigation aid transitioning out over the next few years. In this coming budget the aid will reduce by 50 percent.

On the flip side, the foundation aid increased by 1.5 percent and the executive budget aid increased by 2.06 percent to $420,000, due to legislation adjustments and the building aid is on track to be fully funded.

“The tax cap, if we set it at the 2 percent, which the district has been doing the last few years will yield an additional revenue of $199,000,” Mackowiak stated.

The calculations done based on tax base growth factors and others means the initial levy limit could go up to 3.58 percent or an additional $356,000.

Board of Education President David Damico had a problem with the levy, seeing as it would tap existing small businesses for the most part.

“The problem I have with that is the majority of that hit comes back to small business owners,” Damico stated. “So I, as a tax payer of course, get a STAR (State School Tax Relief) program, retirees get enhanced STAR. Our small business are going to be taking a majority of the hit on this. They’re the ones we come to to help support all of our programs — Boy Scouts, Little League. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t know if I’m in favor of that this year. I think we have to look at other mechanisms and other ways to go; we have to take care of small business, we need small business, I don’t think we can force them out.”

Superintendent Dr. James Tracy offered his take on the tax caps.

“It doesn’t look like a lot, but if you don’t, that’s an amount you don’t get this year and you don’t get it next year. What does that look like if you don’t take it after five years? Are we looking at a million dollars, that we could have been having in the budget regularly? That’s something you have to think about, giving where we are. Knowing there’s a hole in the budget, somehow the hole has to be filled.”

Foundation aid is the base aid that is based on a formula. In 2018-2019, base aid for Dunkirk was $20,808,000 and the district is receiving $21,237,000, which was the 2 percent increase of $429,000 that the legislature gave.

The biggest cost drivers for the budget, as usual, is payroll, followed closely by benefits, particularly health care, and then the retirement system– current costs for that are about $500,000 a year.

The next Board of Education regular meeting will be held Dec. 13 at 6:30 p.m.