Tonawanda News

October 12, 2012

NT schools firm on funding

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A brief presentation by an outside auditing firm during a Board of Education meeting Thursday evening showed the North Tonawanda school district held its own financially for the 2011-12 year after several years of trying budget cuts.

With a newly installed tax cap and cuts to federal and state aid, the board has contended it was forced to eliminate positions and programs, to the chagrin of students, parents and teachers, who often voiced their displeasure during months of public hearings.  

The district now appears to be on a relatively strong financial footing, according to Matthew J. Montalbo, a manager with the accounting firm Drescher & Malecki LLP, who highlighted the 2011-12 school year in the district’s annual audit.

Montalbo said as districts across the state and even the country have had funding sources slashed, North Tonawanda’s assets exceeded its liabilities and ended with an unrestricted balance of $365,867. While last year’s budget was formulated prior the state-mandated tax cap, it may be an indication that some programs could return. 

“We did not find any significant difficulties during this budget,” Montalbo told the board. “This is something to be proud of as a district.”

But while the district appears to be fiscally stable based on the audit report, Montalbo concluded that one of its challenges is the rising cost of retirees. Whether its teacher or non-teacher positions, the current trend has both costs rising between 6 percent and 12 percent. 

While the district has maintained solvency related to those funds, with $2 million in 2010 and $3 million in 2012 — a 50 percent increase that falls in line with rising costs — Montalbo said a cautionary approach would be most practical. 

“The landscape isn’t going to get any easier,” he said. “There are significant challenges going forward.”  

As the board prepares to move into the next round of budgetary discussions, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Alan Getter said much of this year’s planning will depend heavily on the amount of state aid the district received, though that amount will not be released until late 2012 or 2013. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.