Wells school aims for expanded courses for students

WELLS -- Wells Central School District officials are developing a 2014-15 spending plan that includes expanded music, art, business, science, math and advanced placement courses.

"Some colleges we speak to are telling us we need to offer more rigorous courses," Superintendent of Schools Thomas Sincavage says. "We need to better prepare our students."

At the same time, the budget addresses state-determined retirement costs, health insurance increases, continued loss of state aid due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the state-imposed cap on any increase to the tax levy.

"We have to plan carefully, for today and the long-term," said Sincavage. "By reorganizing around existing teachers' certifications, we will be able to offer more options for students." As part of this reorganization, a certified teacher already on staff will take over the pre-kindergarten program.

FUND BALANCE

Fund balance will be used to help make up the difference between expected revenues and expenses. "As part of our five-year strategic budget plan, funds taken from fund balance would be less than last year. That savings is important to the district to help maintain fiscal solvency," said Sincavage.

Under the recently adopted state budget, the district will receive $73,291 more in state aid than in 2013/2014. "This is helpful," Sincavage says. "However, the district has lost more than $850,000 in aid over the past five years as a result of the Gap Elimination Adjustment."

GEA is an amount of every district's promised state aid that has been withheld since 2010/2011 to help the state address its own budget challenges.

VOTE IS COMING

In addition to voting on the budget Tuesday, May 20, residents will elect a new member to the BOE and vote on three propositions.

David Woodward's term on the board is expiring, and he is not running for a second five-year term. Stephen Stofelano is the sole candidate.

The first proposition would create a Bus Replacement Reserve Account, where money from fund balance can be set aside to cover future bus purchases. Any state aid associated with bus purchases would be added to this fund.

The second proposition would create a Capital Reserve Fund for building projects and renovations. The district's accounting firm has recommended both of these funds.

The third proposition asks voters for permission to purchase a 30-passenger bus. The district has the money to purchase the bus, but needs voter approval to do so.

The Board of Education is expected to approve the budget proposal April 23. The annual budget hearing will be Tuesday, May 6, at 7 p.m.