Friday, March 16, 2012

2012-13 School Budget Stands at 1.37% Increase

At its March meeting the Bronxville Board of Education reduced the 2012-13 proposed budget by an additional $51,620, bringing next year's spending plan down to $44,240,325. This total represents a tax levy increase of 1.37%, below the legislated tax cap -- 1.51% in Bronxville's case. The $51,260 reduction represents a further reduction in private school transportation based on projected costs for next year.

The Board declined to make further reductions in private school transportation but maintained an interest in identifying future opportunities for cost savings. The state mandates that public school districts provide transportation to all private schools within a fifteen-mile radius, an expenditure that exceeds $400,000 annually. Such transportation can be provided through district-owned bus, contracted transportation, or public transit.  Public transit has been used for students attending Fordham Prep and schools in Manhattan, but the Board recognized that conditions vary widely. The administration cited a number of related factors related to fulfilling its obligations, including safety, age of child, transfers and convenience, total trip time, and cost.

It was pointed out that the Board scrutinizes all segments of the budget, even those areas with small overall costs. Board members suggested that any review of private school transportation be separated from budget deliberations - perhaps as a fall workshop topic.  It was pointed out that some districts have already reduced transportation services (Pelham, Rye Neck), and others are contemplating similar changes (Edgemont, Mamaroneck).

Other budget concerns focused on district reserves. As budgets have tightened over the past four years, end-of-year surpluses have dwindled accordingly, meaning there is less available money to place in various reserve funds. Moreover, using reserves to offset operating expenses has adverse consequences in the long run in a tax cap environment. Finally, we expect estimated flood-related insurance premiums to have a high deductible, which would signal a need to maintain ample reserves in that category.

The next steps in the budget process involve Board adoption of a proposed budget (April 19), a budget hearing (May 3), and the school budget vote (May 15).