By Jann Wiswall

The board of the Ellicottville Central Schools will ask district voters to approve a budget of $11,070,000 for the 2014-15 school year. The vote is scheduled for Tuesday, May 20.

In addition to the basic budget, voters will be asked to approve the lease of one school bus at a cost of no more than $18,000, as well as $28,916 to support the Ellicottville Memorial Library.

The basic budget funds “all of the educationally related services and the maintenance of our school building,” according to the resolution passed by the board at its meeting on Tuesday, April 1. The $11.07 million budget represents a 1.3 percent increase (approximately $128,000) over the current fiscal year’s budget. Much of that increase is the $240,000 needed to pay a portion of the bills for the capital improvement project that was approved by district voters last year.

The school’s board and staff cut more than $100,000 in expenses through a number of belt-tightening measures. As a result of these efforts, Superintendent Mark Ward said that no staff members will be losing their jobs and the school will not need to go into its reserve funds.

At the same time, the board felt the school cannot ignore the need to improve, expand and maintain technology in order to ensure that students are technologically prepared for college. The budget includes the purchase of 80-100 laptop/tablet computers, library software upgrades, online textbooks and the addition of a one-day-per-week technology support employee through BOCES.

The budget also reflects no increase in state revenues — an assumption the board made during the budget process. As a result of statewide support and lobbying, the state legislature did approve a “reduction of the reduction” of funding to schools and, it was learned, ECS will be receiving about $45,000 more in state funding than budgeted. However, these funds will be used to replenish the school’s reserve fund.

If taxpayers approve the budget as proposed, they will see a 5.5 to 5.8 percent increase in their school taxes next year, 1.7 to 2 percent for the basic budget and 3.8 percent for the capital project approved by voters last year (which does not count toward the state’s tax cap).

The final percentage will not be known until district property assessments are completed by the county in July.

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Principals Connie Poulin and Bob Miller both have been busy preparing for state testing that began this week. Part of their preparations included sending a letter to the parents of all students in grades 3-8 outlining the testing schedules and other details to help parents understand and support their children through the process.

Poulin has already begun working on transition planning for next year, including screening potential students for kindergarten and scheduling parent/teacher conferences this spring for parents of students who are struggling. She also is in the midst of in-class teacher observations for this year’s Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR).

Miller reported that three seniors and 13 juniors were recently inducted into the National Honor Society. And, all juniors will be making a trip to the Buffalo Convention Center for a National College Fair.

He also reminded the board that ECS is presenting “South Pacific” this weekend (April 4-5) at Salamanca High School. As a little teaser, he said there will be a “special guest” performing in the pit band. He wouldn’t say anything more.

Reminders: ECS is on spring break from April 10-21. The next meeting of the ECS School Board will be held on Tuesday, April 22 at a special time — 4:30 p.m. The board will be voting on the BOCES budget.