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Morristown Central School foresees further reliance on reserves unless state aid formula is adjusted

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MORRISTOWN - As Morristown Central School braces for budget season, Superintendent David J. Glover said the district will likely be forced to use more and more fund balance to fill the chasm between revenue and expenses.

Mr. Glover called on the state to do more to increase basic education aid to help small schools like Morristown.

In his executive budget released earlier this month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed increasing the district’s aid from $4.8 million to $4.9 million, but Mr. Glover, speaking at Wednesday’s board meeting, said the governor’s proposal shouldn’t be thought of as an increase.

The state budget is due April 1.

Due to gap elimination adjustment, a budgetary measure taken by New York state in 2010 that funnels school aid to pay down the state’s deficit, Mr. Glover said the district has missed out on nearly $812,000 in funding in the last three budget years alone.

Going further, Mr. Glover said the governor’s push for competitive aid funding puts small districts like Morristown at a competitive disadvantage as they are pressed to free up critical staff members to dedicate hours to complex grant writing.

“Bigger schools that have more resources can [apply for grants],” Mr. Glover said. “We dig in and do the best we can.”

In the current budget, Morristown has appropriated $1.4 million in fund balance and Mr. Glover said they will likely spend $300,000 of that.

With total reserves coming in at close to $3 million, Mr. Glover said the district is in “glide” mode and unless the state changes its aid formula they will be forced continue to spend down their fund balance until its gone.

“We can either raise taxes, cut programs or we can spend fund balance,” Mr. Glover said.

And even if the district was able to muster the community support to increase taxes by more than the two percent tax cap Mr. Glover said, because each percentile increase only nets an additional $34,500 for the district, it wouldn’t accomplish much.

Mr. Glover said they can’t cut more programing without “severely impacting kids.”

Further adding to the problem, Mr. Glover said, is the fact that the $114,981 increase proposed by the governor doesn’t cover contractual raises or rising health insurance costs.

Mr. Glover said he expects to use more fund balance in the 2014-2015 budget and unless the state does away with gap elimination he expects the trend to continue.

The first budget workshop at the district, which is open to the community, will be held on Feb. 5 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the school.

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