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Updated: April 15, 2015

Board of Education adopts 2015-16 budget proposal

Built with a focus on student learning, budget calls for no tax levy increase

picture of the budget
The budget has a new format this year, designed to make a direct connection between the community's investment in our schools and programs and services for students. The document is divided into sections that outline the programs, services, staffing, and expenditures in each area. The books are available for review in the Superintendent's Office.

At its meeting last night, the Board of Education adopted a $78,085,153 budget proposal for 2015-16 that continues all current programs and services and invests in a series of key areas. At the meeting, Interim Superintendent John Yagielski answered Board members' questions in each of the sections of the budget plan he presented last month, prior to its adoption.

The community budget vote is May 19 this year.

The proposed budget does not increase the tax levy for next year. If approved by voters, spending would increase 1.0 percent.

The information below is from the article posted in March when Mr. Yagielski first presented the budget proposal that was ultimately adopted.


The budget and financial plan presented march 24 (adopted april 14)

On March 24, Interim Superintendent John Yagielski presented to the Board a 78.1 million budget for the 2015-16 school year. The budget and an associated financial plan he outlined were designed to keep the district's focus on student learning and provide fiscal stability into the future, he said.

The budget calls for a $771,897 increase in spending, or 1.0 percent. It would maintain the property tax levy at the same level as the current year, meaning there would be no increase.

The budget maintains all current programs and services. It also would funds and addresses a series of key areas, including: carefully managing class sizes, investing in Niskayuna teachers to build curriculum aligned with world-class standards, and continuing to strengthen instructional leadership and student support.

Mr. Yagielski said the plan is aligned with changes that have been made this year to ensure the district's focus stays squarely on students, learning, and taking academic excellence to the next level in an era of heightened standards. The budget was built from scratch.

"We spent a lot of time creating a budget that's reflective of where we want to go and reflective of the needs we have," he said. "It's not just about numbers. It's a story about what we are going to do and where we are going to go. Our primary focus for the year ought to be on student learning."

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Seven key areas addressed by the 2015-16 budget proposal

Adequate funds for classroom supplies, materials, and equipment - Includes a more than 10 percent increase in these areas.

Careful management of class sizes - Includes up to two elementary sections to implement the "flex zone" plan and manage K-5 class sizes, high school sections based on course requests, and the ability to meet unanticipated enrollment increases

Investing in Niskayuna faculty - Includes funding to initiate a multi-year plan for Niskayuna teachers to develop curriculum aligned with world-class learning standards using the Common Core as a foundation, and also supports attendance at key conferences and workshops

Improving instructional support for all schools - Includes consolidating the leadership for instruction and expanding the teacher leader pilot

Strengthening leadership for student services and support - Includes an additional social worker at the secondary level and part-time deans of students at the middle schools

Addressing key central service items - Includes a return to district employment of bus drivers and the completion of unfinished capital project work

Protecting and preserving facilities and fixed assets - Includes a multi-year plan to replace equipment across the district.


The financial plan and addressing uncertainty

Yagielski presented the budget in the context of an overall financial plan for the district. A surplus projected for the end of the current year will allow the district to set aside funds for two areas of fiscal uncertainty: the potential for a $1.9 million building aid repayment to the state and ongoing property assessment challenges.

Additionally, Mr. Yagielski outlined an approach that calls for the district to spread the use of unassigned fund balance over a three-year period. Expending only about a third of unassigned fund balance in any given year helps protect against dramatic year-to-year budget impacts from its use.
Mr. Yagielski also highlighted how the establishment of a dedicated Debt Service Fund last year provides long-term stability and a degree of flexibility in how debt payments impact the district's operating budget.


Projected Revenues

As the state budget negotiations continue in Albany, Mr. Yagielski said he estimated a $1 million state aid increase for the district for next year. He said he believed this was a conservative figure, which he arrived at by looking at the state aid proposals from the Governor, Senate, and Assembly for next year and analyzing the district's share of recent years' state aid increases.
Given the revenue projections and the 1.0 percent budget-to-budget increase, Mr. Yagielski said a tax levy increase will not be needed for next year in the budget he presented.


New Budget Format

A new format for the budget this year is designed to make it easier to see how the community's investment in our schools benefits students. The document provides a narrative of programs, services, and requirements in each budget area, as well as the staffing and financial resources needed.

The document also clearly outlines the changes planned for next year in each budget area.
The budget book is more than 60 pages. Copies are available in the Superintendent's Office for anyone who would like to view it.

When the Board adopts a budget for the community to consider at the polls in May, the complete book will also be placed in each school and at community locations.

The Board of Education will continue its review of the budget at its April 14 meeting. The statewide budget vote day in New York is May 19 this year.