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04/07/09 07:06 AM


Budget with no tax hike approved

By Rick Ahrens

The Grand Island School Board unanimously approved a 2009-10 budget that calls for no increase in property taxes for district residents.

Although the board expressed approval for the budget through its vote, members noted that holding steady with the current tax rate could make future budget planning difficult, especially with the expected absence of federal stimulus dollars for 2011-12 school year.

With that in mind, Superintendent Robert Christmann said the fiscal squeeze felt by the school district and its community was very much a factor in the various decisions that went into shaping the newly approved budget.

“The board gets it,” Christmann said, referring to the economic downturn. “There has to be a balance between maintaining our academic excellence and fiscal responsibility in these tough economic times.”

The plan calls for roughly $52 million in spending for the upcoming school year, up 2.76 percent from the current year. The district’s state aid took a $1.5 million cut from last year’s total, but that shortfall is expected to be recouped in the form of federal stimulus grants.

The state’s struggle to approve a timely budget kept revenue and aid figures vague late into the budgetary process, said board President Richard Little Jr.

“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to chase down Albany and hypothesizing about what we could expect in terms of state and federal dollars,” he said, “Ultimately, our guesses were very accurate.”

Spending increases will come in the form of added personnel, such as a full-time guidance counselor supervisor and an additional special-education teacher at Grand Island High School. Additional nonpersonnel spending will be pushed toward prekindergarten programs and literacy programs for children entering first and second grade.

Reductions include the elimination of a total of three elementary- level teaching positions at Huth Road and Kaegebein elementary schools and teaching assistants at the middle and high school.

All personnel decisions, the board said, were based upon projected enrollment figures.