Voters in the Honeoye Falls-Lima Central School District will go to the polls May 21 to decide whether to approve the 2019-2020 budget proposal that was a very tough one for the district to put together this year.
The proposal totals $50,699,032 which is an increase of $733 over the current year’s budget. The proposed tax rate increase is 2.8 percent and the proposed tax levy increase is also 2.8 percent, which is the tax cap limit. Projected tax rates for the major towns in the district are $23.89 per $1,000 of assessed value in Mendon, $27.77 per $1,000 of assessed value in Rush, $25.46 per $1,000 of assessed value in Lima and $25.46 per $1,000 of assessed value in West Bloomfield. For the owner of a $200,000 home with Basic STAR, the proposal would increase taxes about $126.56. The proposal would also use $1.1 million in restricted reserves as the district has done for the last few years as well as $840,000 in appropriated fund balance.
The budget proposal does not feature any new programs or initiatives for the 2019-2020 school year, but does complete the district’s 1-to-1 technology initiative to get all students at the high school access to laptop/tablet computers with a stylus, preserves the current class sizes in the district along with clubs and athletics and also addresses the needs of English Language learners and students with special needs. The Program Budget Advisory Council (PBAC), which included four community members, backed the proposal after hearing operational plans from each building and department in the district. The PBAC prioritized several things in the proposal, such as proceeding with the Transportation Radio initiative that the department has been piloting and perfecting over the past two years which will work over the entire district’s area. Traditional RF radios do not cover the district fully and do not allow communications with the numerous buses taking students all over Monroe County. Many of the existing bus radios can optionally communicate via regional cell towers and to leverage those assets and implement a full regional system, the PBAC recommended $40,000 for a few additional radios and license fees so the district will have regional communications next year. The net cost to the district after transportation aid from the state is $8,400. The PBAC also recommended, and the budget proposal includes, additional math support at Lima Primary in the form of a math specialist for two-half days per week.
Late in March, the district was looking at roughly a $600,000 gap between projected revenues and expenditures. That was eliminated by the gain of some state aid beyond what the district was originally slated for as well as some so-called cuts.
One of the biggest reductions receiving some concern from residents is the termination of the drug counseling position at the high school and the termination of four sub-contractors who have provided mental health services. District Superintendent Gene Mancuso, however, said the services are not being eliminated.
“The board was very clear that it not be eliminated, but what we are doing is possibly shifting providers and we are looking for a school-based program that is integrated into the school program,” Mancuso said. “It is a reflection of the marketplace; we have to shop to get the best service we can and make the best use of funds with a sound program approach and being fiscally responsible. The district will send out Request for Proposals for the drug counseling position and the four sub-contractors for mental health services upon passage of the budget proposal.”
The other reduction drawing concern is the termination of the GED program and the out-of-school placement program for students struggling in high school that are currently housed at the building next to First Presbyterian Church in the village. Mancuso said that this also is not a cut per-se.
“The state no longer has a GED program but a program called TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion),” Mancuso said. “Monroe 1 BOCES, which we are part of, has a TASC program. The GED program here had been part-time the past 15-16 years and we used it as needed. We decided why the duplication when Monroe 1 has the TASC program. When we had more students in the GED and out-of-school placement, it made more sense; now we don’t have as many students in the program so using Monroe 1 BOCES for those services is more efficient.”
Mancuso also addressed some concerns about staffing.
“It is true that we will be shifting some teachers from the High School and Middle School level to the elementary school level, for example music and math, but that is because we are shifting staff to buildings where the students are and right now, our enrollment at the high school is dropping off while it is increasing at Manor and Lima Primary,” Mancuso said. “Thankfully many of our teaching staff have certification to teach at both the secondary (Middle/High School) and elementary (Manor/Lima Primary) levels. There are no layoffs, just a shifting of staff resources.”
In addition to the budget proposal, there is a proposal to allow the expenditure of funds to purchase buses. Four candidates are running for three spots on the school board; the candidates are incumbent board member David Francis, incumbent board member Gary Stottler, incumbent board member Stephanie Templeton and challenger Kelli Eberle.
Voting will be held from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. in the Board of Education Room at the high school; a change from the past due to construction at the high school in the main lobby area.