AUBURN | The Auburn Enlarged City school board met Tuesday to discuss in more detail the proposed state education budget for the 2013-14 school year.

The meeting immediately followed a trip to Albany by Superintendent Constance Evelyn, board vice president Jason Lesch and Cheryl Miskell, the president of the Auburn teacher's union. The group had just returned from a day talking with state legislators. Though nothing is permanent yet, school board members are more optimistic that next year's state aid could increase.

"This was the most promising one," Evelyn said, speaking of the previous two trips she has taken to Albany. "I felt like the representatives were really listening to us."

Evelyn said that she and her colleagues were well prepared for this trip and were able to present state officials with statistics comparing Auburn to other districts in the state with similar enrollment and public wealth, providing solid evidence that there are discrepancies in the amount of aid Auburn receives compared to its peers.

Business manager Lisa Green presented a few numbers revised from last week's preliminary budget workshop that showed a decrease in the expected deficit for 2013-14, which is now at just over $2.4 million, down from the original $4.1 million. The district also has $1.2 million that was allocated toward prepaid expenditures such as gas and electric that they could decide to use to further reduce the budget gap, as they will no longer be paying these expenses upfront.

Evelyn also explained that the state's budget proposal includes $203 million in unidentified grants and the board hopes that the lobbying they did Tuesday will have an effect on how those funds will be used.

"It was a nice meeting and I really think they understood the issue and I hope they will follow through," Lesch said.

One figure presented at the meeting pointed out that if the increase in state aid for the next three years remains at the rate put forth by this year's proposal, the budget deficit in 2015-16 could be close to $6 million. Board members continued to stress the importance of speaking with state legislators before the budget is voted on to make sure their concerns are heard.

"We need to keep working to get our district to be recognized as a high needs district," Evelyn said. "If this shift doesn't happen, the outcome will continue to be more bleak."

The legislative breakfast originally scheduled for Feb. 9 was cancelled due to weather and has been rescheduled for 8 a.m. March 9 at Westhill High School.

Staff writer Kelsey Durham can be reached at 282-2237 or kelsey.durham@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenDurham.

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