“Roll over” 2018-19 budget presented to the Board of Education

The clear majority of the 2018-19 budget proposal is for staffing – the folks on the front lines who work with 2,500 students every day, who clean the buildings, who drive students to school and who oversee the organization.

Superintendent Susan Swartz, in presenting the “roll over” budget last evening, told the Board of Education members that costs for staffing are inevitably going to drive overall costs.

“We are a people-intensive business, all schools are,” said Swartz. “77 percent of this budget is for personnel and benefit costs; there is not a lot of discretionary room left for other things.”

The community vote on the budget is scheduled for 7 a.m. (note the new starting time) to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15 in the B-wing gymnasium at the high school, Sacandaga Road.

Future budget meetings will be held on Monday, Feb. 26 and Mondays, March 5, 12, 19 and 26 at 7 p.m. in the Middle School library.

The $56.6 million budget that she presented to the Board of Education includes all programs and services now provided to students, thus the name “roll over.” It simply carries forward all current expenditures, accounting for salary and other increases.

Spending would increase by 5.99 percent or $3.2 million in 2018-19 over the current school year budget of $53.4 million.

Based on that increase, the tax levy – the total amount of money collected by the school district in taxes – would need to increase by 8 percent, which Swartz quickly added would not happen.

In fact, the state’s maximum tax levy cap for Scotia-Glenville is 3.46 percent. She presumed the Board of Education  would not seek to exceed that state cap. If a school district proposes a tax levy increase above the state cap, the community must approve the budget with a 60 percent plurality. 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.

The resulting gap between costs and revenue is $1.3 million in 2018-19. She noted that some adjustments would be made. For example, the cost savings from 12 retirements have not been factored into these figures yet.

“But this is pretty close to accurate, so we’re going to have to look at some reductions,” she said. She has historically operated with administrators on the “give to get” mentality – if they wanted something added to the budget, they had to be willing to give up something. “But after a number of years, there is not much left to give,” she said.

She noted a few areas from the budget:

  • Health insurance rates are expected to increase by 8-9 percent
  • Teacher and employee retirement costs are expected to remain stable with little change
  • Debt service, to pay for the 2015 capital project and energy performance contract, will increase by $1.034 million but that will be offset by a $604,444 increase in state building aid to cover some of that cost
  • State aid – 37.3 percent of S-G’s revenue – will increase by 5.13 percent or $1.03 million. However, a large share of that – $604,444 – is reimbursement for money already spent on the capital project. Foundation Aid, the main source of aid for school districts, is slated to increase by 2.6 percent or $343,100 in the 2018-19 school year.

Budgets are always a compromise, she said. “We will not be able to give everybody everything that they want, it just can’t work,” she said. “Will some people get some of what they want? Yes somewhat. It may not be everything they want, but we will try to offer what is needed by this community.”