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The Lansing Board of Education unanimously passed a $31,554,110 Monday for the 2020-21 school year. Superintendent Chris Pettograsso said that no layoffs will be necessary because of retirements, not back filling all vacant positions, and moving some teachers into different areas to keep them employed.  But School Business Administrator Kate Heath warned that many uncertainties caused by the coronavirus lockdown could significantly impact the budget.

"We do not know what school will look like in September, we don't know what guidelines and requirements will be put in place and what the financial impact of those might be," Heath said. "We are not sure of what our state aid cuts will actually come in at. We don't know the timing state aid. Will that be on the normal schedule or will it be delayed and we don't currently know the budget vote turnout or results."

Pettograsso said that the budget proposal assumes that classes and programs will take place normally, but uncertainty about how the pandemic still impacts daily life by the beginning of the school year will significantly impact school spending.  She said the Lansing school administration is looking closely at how other districts are responding to the pandemic restrictions and planning for the future. 

"We're putting out a budget that we know will cover everything. However, we may not have fall athletics that would change budget significantly. We may not even be able to have a program with more than 10 students or five students at a time. You may not have any extracurricular activities. We may not have students having to change in locker rooms. So we are really more making our best educated guesses with hopes of having all these programs in place and ready to go. But if any one of those things can not happen, it changes our budget pretty significantly, especially with fall athletics."

New York State was faced with a six billion dollar deficit before the pandemic, and it quickly more than doubled as state officials went on the defense against the pandemic.  Last Friday New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that monthly tax receipts totaled $3.7 billion, falling $7.9 billion or 68.4 percent from April 2019.

"New York is facing economic devastation not seen since the Great Depression," DiNapoli said. "New York and other hard-hit states need the federal government to step up and provide assistance, or the state will have to take Draconian actions to balance its budget. We need Washington to set aside the partisan bickering and deliver substantial relief to New Yorkers now."

The state has warned that it will evaluate its own revenue three times during the year and potentially reduce school aid each of those times in what is being called a 'pandemic adjustment'.

Another uncertainty is in whether district voters will approve the budget.  Lansing school budgets have almost always been supported by the voters, but the pandemic has caused significant unemployment across the US, and Lansing is not immune.  While it seems likely the budget will pass, that uncertainty is cause for more worry by school officials.

"If a budget budget doesn't pass, we have three options," Heath said. "We can go out with a revolt with the same exact budget in hopes that we can increase awareness. We can go out for the revised budget and adjust the budget based on feedback, or we can go immediately to a contingent budget. If the residents vote down the budget a second time with either option one or two, then we must go to a contingent budget."

A contingency budget would require a 0% tax levy increase, restricts spending and may cut athletics, extra-curricular activities, non-mandated transportation, or other purchases, activities, and programs that are not mandated by the State.

Heath said that the proposed budget represents an increase of 2.45% over the current year's budget.  In order to stay below the tax cap about twice the normal amount of appropriated fund balance is proposed -- $625,000 -- than has been typical in recent past budgets.  She estimates the tax rate will increase by 1.6%, adding $68 to the tax bill of the owner of a home assessed at $200,000.

Pandemic restrictions also postponed the budget vote, which normally takes place in May.  

"The budget vote is on June 9th," Pettograsso said. "Every registered voter in our district will receive an absentee ballot, and you have to get that back to the district office by 5:00 PM on June 9th. It's not, that's not the postmark date. It's literally the date that date and time that has to be back to the district office."

A public budget hearing is scheduled prior to the vote, at 6pm on June 2nd.  instructions for logging into the Zoom meeting will be posted on the Board Of Education page on the school district web site.

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