Saturday, March 3, 2012

School Budget Moves Below Cap

At the March budget workshop, Assistant Superintendent Dan Carlin presented a 2012-13 school budget of $44,291,945, representing a 1.5% percent increase over last year -- below the legislated tax levy cap that affects all New York public schools and municipalities.  Since last month's workshop, the budget has been reduced by $150,000 by adjusting private school transportation and special education BOCES tuition. The transportation reduction aligns the budget with actual expenditures; it does not represent a shift in current practice.

The Board's discussion focused on whether additional reductions were practical in the private school transportation category. The state requires local districts to transport resident students to private schools within a fifteen mile radius.  Currently 73 students receive this service, including ten special education students. The Board asked the administration to examine less costly ways where reasonable and safe in terms of total time, transfers, and the age of the students affected. Board members made a number of comments on the topic:
  • Reductions in this category would continue in perpetuity, thus contributing to long-term budget sustainability.
  • Changes in the level of service, consistent with the law, could occur in incremental steps
  • There should be ample time for public dialogue before making significant changes in practice.
  • Private school transportation is one of many unfunded mandates; legislative relief should be sought.
Assistant Superintendent Dan Carlin plans to present possible additional transportation adjustments at the March Board meeting.

The Board also reviewed information on class size and asked for more data on initial placement for new hires and co-curricular participation.  There were several comments on the challenge of maintaining current programs  in the context of a tax cap.  As one Board member put it, "When you don't have control over costs like health premiums and pension contributions, you face consequences for the size of your labor pool and what you pay them."

For the updated budget presentation, click here.