Bainbridge-Guilford may raise taxes, cut programs

By Michelle Costanza

March 4, 2013 Updated Mar 5, 2013 at 1:03 AM EST

Bainbridge, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Administrators of a local school district say the only way out of their financial problems may be through a mix of cuts and tax increases.

Bainbridge-Guilford will be entering the 2013-2014 school year with a $1.2 million deficit.

This is the second year the district has been in a poor financial situation, and officials say they are out of options.

A public forum was held Monday evening, inviting parents, students, and community members to listen to the break-down of the budget proposal. Superintendent Donald Wheeler said the most important step in the budget process was to listen to feedback and suggestions from the community.

"Our biggest issue is that we have rising fixed costs like every other school, and when you figure out state aid -- $128,000 -- and our fixed costs are about a million dollars, something has to give somewhere," Wheeler said.

If Bainbridge-Guilford received the same amount of state aid as they did for the 2008-2009 school year, cuts would not be necessary. But like other Southern Tier districts, state aid has been on the decline.

In order for the district to operate at the same level as last year and break even, taxes would need to be raised 2.9 percent.

"We're proposing going out at our tax cap, 4.9 percent, we're going to use some of our fund balance but we're running pretty low on it, so our last option is significant staff cuts," said Wheeler.

Some of the faculty and staff positions at risk include elementary, custodial and athletic coaches. Cuts to programs such as junior varsity sports, college level courses, as well as a mix of art, business and math electives are also possible.

Community members searched for remedies through out-of-district student contracts and the need-based lunch program, although the administration said the numbers on paper will likely remain in the red without cuts to staff.

Bainbridge-Guilford is planning to hold another public forum at 7 p.m. March 25, when the budget is expected to be finalized.