Clymer student pleads for passage of tax increase.

CLYMER, N.Y. Clymer Central School junior Connor Beal is concerned about his academic future as the 2018-19 school year nears completion.

Beal, who is president of Student Council and president of the class of 2020, wants to ensure that CCS will have enough funds to keep programming and extracurricular opportunities available next year as the community is now one week away from voting on a second 2019-20 spending plan.

"I play saxophone in the band and I am active in various clubs," said Beal during a second public budget hearing that was held Monday night in the CCS Student Performance Center. "I am working toward my advanced regents diploma. I have taken courses for college credit and I am currently enrolled in additional college classes for my senior year. I'm telling you all this because all of these things are on a list of possible cuts that will affect myself and my schoolmates and our educational future if they are taken away from us."

Beal, who spoke in front of an audience of about 150 people, encouraged residents to think hard about the decision they will make on Tuesday, June 18, when they have a chance to vote "yes" or "no" to a proposed $11,310,569 spending plan, which would raise taxes 8.8 percent and generate an extra $204,784 in revenue.

"And even though some people don't believe it will, the decision you make when you revote will affect our future," Beal said. "Especially for those who are going to be juniors and seniors."

Beal was one of about six audience members (including another student) who spoke during a public comment period that followed the public budget presentation, which was led by Louann Laurito-Bahgat of Bahgat & Laurito-Bahgat, which is handling the school's financials, and CCS Superintendent Ed Bailey. School board members were also present.

An original spending plan, which called for a 13 percent tax increase, did not receive a supermajority vote (60 percent) on May 21. The district has now presented a second budget, which calls for an 8.8 percent increase. Because the increase is still over a state-set tax cap of 4 percent, the spending plan will also need a supermajority approval to officially pass.

If the second budget does not pass, the district will automatically go to a contingent budget that will carry a zero percent tax increase and a list of potential cuts, including three instructional positions, which include art, agriculture and business teaching positions; some or all interscholastic sports; two instructional support positions (aides); half a maintenance position; restricted field trips for all grade levels; and fee schedule for facility use.

Laurito-Bahgat reminded audience members that this second budget, which is about to go up for a vote, is already $250,985 less than the first proposed budget. 

And, Laurito-Bahgat presented figures to outline how much state aid CCS received compared to neighboring districts. She specifically compared districts that were within 100 students of enrollment either more or less to Clymer. 

A predominant factor in determining state aid is a formula the state uses called combined wealth ratio (CWR). That formula is determined by a combination of two factors, property wealth per pupil and income wealth per pupil.

"This combined wealth ratio drives our state aid," Laurito-Bahgat said.

Because Clymer has a high CWR rating, its state aid is considerably less than similar districts. 

"We are the third largest combined wealth ratio school," she said. "That is not a good thing. Why is it not a good thing? It's not a good thing for our state aid. It's a wonderful thing that we have nice property assessed at high levels. It's a wonderful thing that our taxpayers make good income that drives this ratio up. But, it does not help us state aid wise. It does not help us when we want to have state aid help balance our budget. It hurts us."

According to figures provided by Laurito-Bahgat, Clymer's state aid for 2018-19 school year, with 470 students enrolled was $6,140,740. Compared with Panama Central School's state aid for the 2018-19 school year, with 451 students enrolled, which was $9,531,940; and Sherman Central School's state aid for the 2018-19 school year, with 409 students enrolled, which was $7,186,996.

Also compared with Brocton Central School District, with 575 students enrolled, which was $12,989,968; and Pine Valley Central School District, with 562 students enrolled, which was $12,656,332.

"We are running this district on less aid and tax levy than all of those other districts," Laurito-Bahgat said. "I think that's commendable. That means we are containing our costs and still providing a good education with limited resources."

Because the district will not be able to rely on state aid to pull itself out of what is expected to be a more aggressive future financial hardship, CCS leaders and board members are exploring other options with other school districts in an effort to achieve a comfortable financial future. 

On the June 18 ballot, in addition to voting "yes" or "no" to the spending plan, taxpayers will be asked four nonbinding questions in an effort to gauge public feedback.

"These options are just for the board to have a better idea and understanding of what the people in our district want," Bailey said during Monday's hearing. 

The four options that residents will be able to check "yes" or "no" to include:

• tuitioning some or all CCS students to other districts.

• merge Clymer with neighboring districts.

• change the boundaries of the current school district so that some students would be redistricted to other schools (a move that would have to be done by the state, not the local school districts)

• other collaborative formal arrangements with school districts, such as shared services.

Copies of the second proposed budget were distributed at the meeting and are still available by contacting CCS. 

The Tuesday, June 18, vote will take place from noon to 8 p.m. in the lobby of the Student Performance Center. 

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