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March 12, 2014

Superintendent's draft budget maintains current programs

Community invited to March 15 budget forum


All current programs for students would continue next year in a $77.3 million budget plan recommended by Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio at the March 10 meeting of the Board of Education. In the plan, a budget gap of $1.6 million for next year would be closed through an administrative restructuring plan, salary savings from retirements across the district, and the use of fund balance.

The plan calls for a tax levy increase of 2.81 percent. This is significantly less than the district's threshold for a simple majority vote of 4.52 percent under the state's tax levy cap formula.
The Board of Education will consider the draft budget plan at workshops on March 18 and March 25. A  proposed budget for the May vote could be adopted as early as the March 25 meeting, or in early April.

The next step in the budget process is a community forum this coming Saturday, March 15, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Van Antwerp Middle School auditorium. The forum will provide residents with an opportunity to give input into the budget plan outlined by Superintendent Salvaggio and engage in a conversation on budget issues in general.

Under the budget plan, 2014-15 would be the first year since 2008-09 that there are no reductions to programs for students. Like school districts across New York, Niskayuna has contended with rising costs and the loss of promised state aid over the last five years, requiring significant budget gaps to be closed through a variety of measures, including efficiencies, tax increases, and program cuts.

The district will continue to face these fiscal challenges next year. Yet, the restoration of its fund balance, through conservative planning and expense reductions over the last couple years, has put leaders in a position to keep all current student programs next year by using fund balance in concert with retirement savings and administrative restructuring.

"This plan represents a combination of careful choices, tough decisions, and long-term fiscal management," Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio said. "I am pleased that after years of reductions, we are in a position to continue all current programs and opportunities to students next year - as we manage the ongoing fiscal challenges faced by school districts in New York."

Here is some more information about the strategies that are being considered to close the budget gap:


Fund Balance

The district expects to end the current school year with a surplus that allows it to use $786,000 in unassigned fund balance to close the budget gap. Unassigned fund balance represents general savings that can be used for any purpose. The district's restoration of unassigned fund balance over the past two has put it into a position to use savings from the current year to help balance the budget next year.


Administrative Restructuring

The reduction of 3.5 full-time equivalent administrators in a restructuring plan would save the district about $382,000. The plan is based on combining and reassigning particular responsibilities and positions due to retirements.

"The plan allows us to recognize and promote internal leadership that will benefit the district for years to come, utilize the strengths of our administrative team, provide continuity, and support targeted areas," Superintendent Salvaggio said.

More information about this plan will be provided for the March 15 budget forum.


Retirement savings

The district will save about $245,000 next year through retirements. There are 12 retirements at all staffing levels. Positions being vacated due to retirements will be filled, with the exception of positions that are being left open as part of the administrative restructuring. The savings are provided by the difference in salaries between outgoing employees and new hires.

Savings on benefits resulting from the administrative restructuring and retirements add up to about $224,000 in the budget plan.

The draft budget plan also includes about $121,000 in expenses resulting from staffing adjustments needed to meet student and program needs. These adjustments will be presented in greater detail at the March 15 budget forum.