A year ago, in presenting the carry forward budget for the current 2018-19 school year, Superintendent Susan Swartz noted that the gap between expected costs and revenue was $1.3 million.
That kind of gap has become common at many school districts in these years of state property tax caps and limited state aid increases.
The carry forward budget includes all current programs and staffing based on next year’s costs. The 2019-20 carry forward budget that Swartz presented to the Board of Education on Monday night totaled $56.955 million, a $966,064 or 1.7 percent increase from the current budget. Last year’s carry forward budget included a $3.2 million spending increase year to year.
The carry forward budget for 2019-20 does not include a deficit like last year that has to be filled.
“This is pretty amazing when you consider increases in salaries, health insurance and other things,” Swartz told the Board of Education members. “We could really say we are done now. But there will be things that I want to include and that you want to include. We will work on those in the coming weeks.”
The carry forward budget also 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 in the proposed 2019-20 budget. Both of those savings resulted in the relatively small 1.73 percent spending increase.
Board of Education President David Bucciferro told members to come to the March 4 meeting ready to discuss what initiatives they are interested in including in the budget.
Swartz noted that, like she does with the school administrators, she follows the “give to get” concept – if there is a proposal for a new program, where can the funding come from? Can another program be reduced or eliminated to save the money to fund the new initiative?
State tax cap
The state’s maximum allowable tax levy limit increase – tax cap – for Scotia-Glenville is 3.18 percent in 2019-20. The carry forward budget included a tax levy increase of 2.91 percent – $79,000 less than the maximum allowed.
The maximum allowable tax levy limit is maximum amount that the tax levy can increase with a simple 50 plus 1 vote majority. While the Board of Education could decide to ask the community for a higher tax levy increase, Swartz cautioned them not to do so.
The S-G community allowed the school district to override the state cap in May 2014 for the 2014-15 budget. That year, the state tax levy cap would have only allowed a 0.27 percent tax increase; when tax rates were set that August, the tax levy was increased by 1.12 percent. Tax rates at Scotia-Glenville have dropped three times since the 2009-10 school year.
Tax rate will be higher than the levy increase
Business Administrator Andrew Giaquinto noted that, while the maximum tax levy increase is 3.18 percent, the estimated tax rate would increase by 3.59 percent as the budget now stands. Tax rates are used to compute annual school tax bills, based on a home’s assessment.
He said that difference between the tax rate and levy was because of an $8 million decline in the tax base after a business in the industrial park was removed from the tax rolls and placed in a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) arrangement.
Knowing that this property would come off the tax rolls this year after a successful assessment challenge last year, the school district planned ahead in June by placing $191,000 in a tax reserve account. That money is now being withdrawn to offset the loss of tax revenue in the 2019-20 budget.
Giaquinto also pointed to state aid projections as a cause for concern. While Foundation Aid (based on student enrollment) is expected to climb by $40,862, based on the governor’s budget proposal, other areas of state aid will decline:
- building aid will drop by $518,252. The district is using $500,000 from the debt service reserve account to offset this aid loss. The district’s long-range fiscal plan had anticipated the building aid decline this year.
- private excess cost aid for students with special needs or students with special education needs in private schools will drop by $40,245 and
- high cost excess aid for students with special needs or students with special education needs in public schools will drop by $53,189.
All three of those aids are reimbursables, meaning the school district already spent the money and is seeking to be reimbursed by the state. The governor has proposed capping the aid reimbursements at 2 percent per year.
Giaquinto noted that tax levy and rates don’t always coincide. This year, for example, the tax levy increased by 3.6 percent but the tax rate, which is set by the Board of Education in August, increased by 2.62 percent.
Here are the upcoming budget-related dates:
- Mondays, March 4, 11, 18, 25 – 7 p.m., Middle School library – Board of Education budget development
- 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