Rhodes: Two propositions, three seats at stake in Auburn school vote
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AUBURN SCHOOL BOARD

Rhodes: Two propositions, three seats at stake in Auburn school vote

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School Vote

Susan Kuncio votes in 2018 at Owasco Elementary School concerning the Auburn school budget, special propositions and board candidates.

School budget votes and board elections everywhere are being conducted much differently this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Auburn Enlarged City School District’s annual budget vote and board election, originally scheduled for May 19, will now be held by absentee ballot only this year; there will be no in-person voting. Absentee ballots will automatically be mailed to each registered voter in the district with a postage-paid return envelope. In order to be counted, all completed absentee ballots must be received in the office of the district clerk by 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 9.

The Auburn Enlarged City School District has two propositions on the ballot this year. The first is a proposal of budget expenditures for the 2020-2021 school year. The second proposes allowing a high school senior to be designated to serve as an ex officio member of the board without the authority to vote or attend executive sessions.

Planning the budget for the 2020-2021 school year has been very complicated. With New York state facing a $15 billion loss in revenue as a result of COVID-19 and its effect on the economy, the revenue loss will certainly impact the amount of aid school districts receive. Gov. Cuomo announced in early April that state aid to school districts for the 2020-2021 school year would be frozen at the 2019-2020 levels. However, he added a provision allowing him to be able to reevaluate the budget several times throughout the year and make changes to aid allotments if necessary. In addition, he has indicated in many of his daily press briefings that he may need to cut school aid by 20% unless the federal government can provide some sort of aid to states. The first reevaluation period ended on April 30, but the state has yet to release any revised budget numbers, so the district has been forced to plan a budget without knowing the amount of state aid it will receive.

Because no aid has been officially cut, the Auburn school district is proposing a budget that is based on the original aid amounts the governor released in early April and does not take a potential 20% cut into consideration. The proposed budget expenditures for the 2020-2021 school year are $80,725,559, which is up 2.3%, or $1.8 million, from 2019-2020 due to inflation and other rising costs. To account for rising costs, the district will need to incorporate additional cost-saving measures, as well as utilize $1,047,897 of the district reserves.

The 2020-2021 proposed budget includes a net reduction of 21 staff positions through a combination of retirements, resignations and layoffs, but the district will be able to maintain the programs our community values for our students, as long as there are no additional cuts to the amount of state aid the district receives. Because the budget does not account for a potential 20% cut in state aid, which equates to approximately $6.3 million for Auburn, there is a possibility that the district may need to lay off several more positions during the summer months and even throughout the school year if the governor cuts additional aid to schools. The district is choosing to remain optimistic and hold out hope that the federal government will offer a stimulus package to offset any additional deficits due to any cuts to state aid.

This year’s proposed budget will also include a 1.67% tax levy increase, which is within the tax cap limit set by New York state. On a $100,000 home, that equates to an increase of $31 annually for taxpayers with no STAR exemption, $22 annually for taxpayers with basic STAR exemptions, and $9 annually for taxpayers with enhanced STAR exemptions. If a school district’s proposed tax levy increase is within the “tax cap” set by the state, as is the case with Auburn’s 2020-2021 proposed budget, a simple majority of voters is needed to approve the budget.

In addition to the two propositions the community is being asked to vote on, there are also the school board elections. There are three open school board positions for the 2020-2021 school year, and each position holds a three-year term. The four candidates running are Eli Hernandez, Patrick Mahunik, Rhoda Overstreet-Wilson, and Joseph Sheppard. Hernandez, Overstreet-Wilson and Sheppard all currently serve on the board and are running for reelection, while Mahunik is a newcomer running for election.

If you are a registered voter in the Auburn school district, please be on the lookout for your absentee ballot, which should arrive in your mailbox in the coming days. Ballots may be requested by any other qualified voters in the district by contacting the district clerk, Shelly Major, at michellemajor@aecsd.education or (315) 255-8850. Again, in order to be counted, all completed absentee ballots must be received in the office of the district clerk by 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 9.

For more information about the 2020-2021 proposed budget, please visit the district’s website, aecsd.education. If you have any questions about the proposed budget, please do not hesitate to contact the board of education or the superintendent’s office at (315) 255-8822 or budget@aecsd.education.

Thank you for your continued support of the Auburn Enlarged City School District’s educational programming. We constantly strive to ensure that we provide high quality curriculum and instruction and learning environments that meet the unique needs of each of our students.

Kathleen Rhodes is president of the Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education. For more information, call (315) 255-8800 or visit aecsd.education.

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