Here is a closer look at the budget issues local school districts are trying to work through in their meetings before the final budgets are voted on in May:
Saratoga Springs City School District
Facing $1.2 million in budget cuts
The Saratoga Springs City School District is looking to cut $1.2 million in programs and positions as they discuss the best ways to balance the 2013-14 budget. The Board of Education has been discussing controversial cuts to athletics programs, including removing the assistant coaching positions for the boys and girls varsity tennis teams at the high school, in addition to dissolving the freshman boys’ lacrosse team and the assistant coaching position for the bowling team. Field trips and arts programs such as Arts in Education will also be reduced.
In addition to the athletics program cuts, there is a possibility of 11.5 staff positions that will not be filled. Though vacant positions won’t be filled, Superintendent Michael Piccirrillo said that no current jobs will be lost through these budget cuts. By removing jobs through attrition and rearranging certain positions to fill multiple needs, the district expects to save $949,769.
The school district is also looking to move the expensive BOCES Regional Tutoring Center program in-house to reduce the costs of which the district currently pays $115,000 annually. By moving the program in-house, the district would save $70,701.
The next Board of Education meeting and budget workshop will take place April 9 at Dorothy Nolan Elementary School at 7 p.m.
Schuylerville School District
Facing budget gap between $642,000 and $1 million
Though Schuylerville schools are currently slated to receive an increase in state aid for the 2013-2014 school year (around $500,000), the additional aid is offset by increasing costs of projected increases in health insurance costs and state mandated contributions to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and Employee Retirement System (ERS).
With those costs in mind, Schuylerville is prepared to face a budget gap between $642,000 and $1 million.
Tax levy cap legislation created in the 2011-2012 years also plays a significant role in the planning of next year’s budget. The legislation limits the tax levy increases that a district can impose on taxpayers if the school budget is approved by a simple majority of voters (50 percent "yes" votes, plus one). Districts can go above their tax levy limits if 60 percent of voters approve the budget proposal.
Schuylerville and districts across the state will have to plan for the worst-case fiscal scenario—a zero percent tax levy increase, which, in turn, leads to the need to hand out pink slips to all staff members who could potentially lose their jobs. In Schuylerville, more than a dozen staff members received notice that their jobs are in jeopardy for the 2013-2014 school year.
"We don't anticipate that all the people who received pink slips will lose their jobs, but we are forced to give them notice in the event that our budget is voted down twice and we aren't permitted to increase our tax levy," said Superintendent Dr. Ryan Sherman.
Health costs are also an issue in planning the budget—for Schuylerville, health insurance costs increased an average of 10 percent over the last two years. If the increases continue, it could mean $640,000 in added expenditures for the district.
Since the 2010-2011 school year, spending has dropped by more than $1.2 million and nearly 20 jobs have been cut, including 16 teaching positions, 3.2 non-teaching positions and one administrative position (four of the teaching positions were cut through attrition or retirement).
To learn more about the Schuylerville School District budget, visit www.schuylervilleschools.org. The Board of Education will meet again April 15.
Ballston Spa Central School District
Budget increase of $3,240,490
The Ballston Spa School District’s 2013-14 budget is currently slated for $79,634,892, which is actually an increase of $3,240,490 from the 2012-13 year. The budget was slightly modified on March 20, amending it to $174,000 less then the proposed amount from the school board’s meeting on March 6. The decrease in funds is due to the total costs of the health insurance renewals.
In his presentation to the school board, Superintendent Joseph Dragone said the budget is contingent upon the finalization of the state budget, which will determine how much aid the district will get from the state for the next year. Dragone also said the district is expecting a 1.2 percent increase in state aid from the amount received last year.
To stay within the state’s tax cap, the limit for how much of the district’s budget can come from property taxes is $43.9 million for 2013-14, an increase of $1.4 million over last year. The allowable tax levy limit is 3.22 percent. However, Dragone said the district won’t have to use that full amount if they receive the necessary amount of state aid.
The 2013-14 budget will add two new teaching positions—one will be a media specialist at the district’s new Gordon Creek Elementary School, the other for a sixth grade English/Language Arts and math teacher. The district plans to use savings from higher salaries of retiring teachers to fund the two new positions.
2013-14’s biggest expenses are $40.5 million for contractual and salary obligations, $12.3 million for health insurance and $6.6 million for pensions.
Budget numbers can change once the state budget is finalized. The Ballston Spa Board of Education will meet again April 10 at the high school library for a final review of the budget.