Board of Education adopts $56.95 million budget; still hopes to bring tax increase down

The Board of Education on Monday night unanimously (7-0) approved a $56.95 million spending plan for the 2019-20 school year.

The budget is a $966,044 or 1.73 percent spending increase over this school year’s $55.99 million budget.

Chart showing expenditures in the 2019-20 school budget
Expenditures for staffing and benefits accounts for more than 77 percent of the school budget. Schools are people-intensive organizations.

As adopted, the budget would increase the tax levy by 2.91 percent. That is slightly below the state’s maximum allowable tax levy limit increase – tax cap – for Scotia-Glenville of 3.18 percent. The maximum allowable tax levy limit is the most that the tax levy can increase with a simple 50 plus 1 vote majority.

Chart showing the revenue projections for the 2019-20 budget.
The largest sources of revenue for the 2019-20 school budget is property taxes (53.2 percent) and state aid (36.4 percent).

However, the tax rate is projected to increase by 3.59 percent under the budget. The administration and several board members said that was too high. They hoped it could be reduced with additional state aid. The state budget is scheduled to be adopted by April 1.

Community voting on the budget will be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21, at the B-wing gym of the high school, Route 147.

Here is a printer friendly version of the presentation.

Two budget initiatives

The new spending plan keeps all current programs in place and includes two initiatives:

  • an elementary mental health program. This program would compliment the current programs at the MS and HS. They are staffed  through the Saratoga Center for the Family. Superintendent Susan Swartz said the agency has agreed to provide one 30-hour per week individual for $35,000 at the four elementary schools. That is the same cost the district paid this school year for the MS and HS individual.
  • an elementary guidance counselor, as required by state mandate.  The state requirement says that “each school district shall have a comprehensive developmental school counseling/guidance program for all students in grades kindergarten (K) through grade 12.” S-G already has guidance counselors in grades 6-12; this would add a counselor to cover grades K-5 at the four schools.

Spending cap

Chart showing tax rate history for Scotia-Glenville
This chart shows spending and tax rate increases back to 2007. Note that for three years – 2009-10, 2015-16 and 2016-17 – the tax rate declined at Scotia-Glenville.

“I always mentioned that you are actually adopting a spending cap,” Swartz told the board members. “The budget will shift based on needs and this will give us room to move under that cap.”

Swartz also asked that the board agree to put any additional revenue, additional state aid, into reducing the expected tax rate increase. She noted that it takes $300,000 in additional revenue to decrease the tax rate by 1 percent.

Andrew Giaquinto, S-G business administrator, noted that the school district would have received an additional $23 million in Foundation Aid if the state had followed its own state aid guidelines adopted in 2007.

“I’m very happy that we were able to come up with a budget that adds a couple of things and is reasonable for the taxpayers,” said Board President David Bucciferro. “And we did not have to get rid of anything. I’d be even happier if we end up getting some more money (aid) to bring down the tax rate.”

For the first time in several years, the budget process did not involve cutting back on any programs. Part of that was because the budget included six teacher retirements, which saved the district $250,000 in salaries, as well as reductions in teacher and ERS pension rates, saving another $250,000.

This was the third week of budget deliberations. Here are links to the previous weeks discussions:

Budget timeline

Here are the upcoming budget-related dates:

  • Wednesday, May 8 – 7 p.m., Middle School cafeteria – budget hearing
  • Tuesday, May 21 – 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., High School B-wing gymnasium – annual budget and Board of Education community vote