How does the recently approved capital project affect the budget?
The capital project voters approved in February does not have an impact on the proposed 2021-22 budget. In the coming year, the district will finalize design work and submit plans to the State Education Department for construction. As noted prior to the February vote, the impact of the project is almost entirely offset by retiring debt from previous projects.
What happens if the budget is not approved?
Under New York State Education Law, if voters defeat a proposed budget, school districts can either hold another budget vote in June (on the same plan or a revised proposal) or immediately adopt a contingent budget for the coming year. If a budget is defeated a second time, the district must adopt a contingent budget. Under the law, the tax levy in a contingent budget cannot increase from the prior year. This means that the district would need to make more reductions, in the amount of the tax levy increase of $696,000, to comply with this. Additionally, in a contingent budget, there can be no spending on equipment purchases or community use of school facilities.
If state aid is increasing and the district is operating a surplus in the current year, how can taxes be increasing and staffing adjustments be needed?
While the annual school budget provides funding for students and programs for one year, district officials approach it with long-term planning in mind. Although the district has operated a surplus this year because some planned expenses weren’t needed due to COVID-19 (e.g. field trips and some athletic costs), the expectation is that those expenses will be needed next year so they remain in the budget. Also, in the current year’s budget, the district allocated $4.6 million in fund balance to bring revenues in line with expenditures. An important goal in the budget process was to reduce this number to make the district more sustainable in the long run – not dependent on a savings account to fund everyday costs. The combination of the state aid increase, reduced use of fund balance, a tax levy increase of just above 1 percent and some net staffing adjustments (based on enrollment, course requests, changing student needs and retirements) brought expenditures and revenue into balance and put the district in a better position to maintain student programs and services for the long-term.