Superintendent's Message: State, Federal Aid Set the Stage
The District is grateful to all members of the Midlakes community for their patience, collaboration, sacrifices, and flexibility in navigating a school year unlike any other. It is amazing how much has changed as we adapted to extraordinary circumstances and found ways to prioritize student learning while attending to serious health and safety concerns.
Every aspect of our daily operations — teaching, transportation, sports, events, virtual learning, health and safety protocols, communications, and more — now looks different than it did prior to the pandemic. This has been a monumental task and we credit our students, staff, families, and community for recognizing the challenges and joining us in partnership these past 14 months.
The development of the 2021-2022 school budget is another area that has been greatly influenced by the pandemic. Our budget is comprised of revenues from several different sources, with the most significant portion coming in the form of state aid. When developing a budget, we look to address the most critical needs of students while being responsible to our taxpayers.
After considerable concern about impending budget gaps dating back to the summer and fall of 2020, we are thankful that the state budget includes a substantial increase in Foundation Aid (the most substantial source of state aid) to Midlakes.
This increase has allowed us to build a budget with no increase to the tax levy while addressing both student and operational needs. Our budget proposal also sets the stage to take advantage of two federal stimulus programs to tackle academic and social-emotional learning gaps created by the disruptions related to the pandemic.
The proposed school budget for 2021-2022 calls for $38,310,998 in spending, an increase of 2.27% from the 2020-2021 budget. New spending is being driven largely by contractual salary and benefit increases in addition to a 10% increase in health care premiums paid by the District.
The budget proposal also calls for some spending reductions. We have reduced spending by accessing increased support from Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES to create operational efficiencies. We are also able to limit expenditures in the budget by maximizing the use of federal funds to maintain, restore, and increase operational supports and student opportunities.
Additional state aid will also allow us to expand our Universal Pre-Kindergarten program, replace an aging bus lift for our transportation department, and address a malfunctioning electronic sign at the corner of routes 96 and 488.
Overall, we are receiving nearly $918,000 in additional state aid that will help the District hold the line on taxes while reducing our reliance on reserve fund spending by about $94,500. The last time Midlakes put forth a budget that called for a zero percent increase in the tax levy was for the 2009-2010 academic year.
Meanwhile, we are working on detailed plans to allocate significant resources from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act and the American Rescue Plan. Those two federal programs account for approximately $5.6 million in funds available to the District over the next three years to help address learning gaps created by the pandemic as well as other needs. Each program has different requirements, and we will share more ideas for each as we refine our plans in the coming weeks.
We anticipate using these federal funds for staffing and programmatic needs to support in-person instruction and address student learning and social-emotional needs. A detailed plan for the use of federal grant funds, outside the general budget, will be posted to the school website by July 1. Presentations will also be made to the Board of Education at scheduled Board meetings before the plan is finalized.
We know the pandemic has placed many hardships on Midlakes families. We hope by presenting a budget with a zero percent tax levy increase we can provide some relief while still advancing the learning, social-emotional growth, and health and safety of our students. We will use the federal funds allocated to Midlakes to continue our financial responsibility to the community while keeping the needs of our students a top priority.
Thank you for your continued support of all Midlakes students.
— Matt Sickles, superintendent