Update on 2020-21 School Budget Development

Colleagues and Community Members,

The purpose of this message is to provide you with an update on the 2020-21 budget development process. On Monday evening, we shared with the Board of Education that, given the tax cap and projected state aid, available revenue for next year will not cover the growth in expenses. We have a budget gap that needs to be closed.

One of the first pieces of information we presented was our state Foundation Aid history. For the last decade, we have received an annual Foundation Aid increase of a little more than 1 percent. We are receiving just less than $11 million in Foundation Aid this year, while the full amount due to the district is $17.8 million. This is a challenge.

We also highlighted the budget additions that we have made in recent years to increase student support, manage class sizes and strengthen our academic programs and operations. We have added the full-time equivalent of nearly 80 positions in this time. These investments were made based on our future-focused program vision. We will keep moving forward, yet it’s also clear that we have some difficult decisions ahead.

Based on the state aid for the district in the Governor’s budget proposal and a tax levy increase at our cap of 2.15 percent, we currently have a budget gap of $2.7 million for next year. This takes into account the cost of current programs, as well as some necessary additions to implement the Class Size Management Plan and meet special education needs at the middle school level. The biggest cost drivers are growth in health insurance, salaries, and pension costs.

I am recommending that we address the budget gap with a balanced approach. This does not mean it will be easy. First, when we share a budget plan with the Board on March 24, we plan to seek a higher-than-usual tax levy increase, above our cap for this year. While this will help, closing the gap entirely through local taxes alone is not something we would consider asking our taxpayers to do.

As a result, we will have to make some spending reductions for next year. As a first step, we’ll look to realize some savings through attrition. We are also exploring a retirement incentive. While workforce reductions are a last resort, it’s clear that they will be needed to some degree. We have not yet identified those positions that may be affected.

Those decisions will be made in the coming days so that we can bring a budget plan to the Board of Education on March 24. Again, this plan will represent a balanced approach to the factors mentioned above.

Also at the Board meeting on Monday, our capital project planning process continued. Please look for a separate update about that, as it is not related to the annual budget development process and has no bearing on taxes for next year.

In closing, I want to recognize that this is a time of uncertainty. In such times, it’s easy for people to become divided. As a school district, there are so many great things happening and we will continue to move forward and pursue our future-focused agenda. My greatest hope is that we come together as a community, stay positive, support one another and keep doing everything it takes to help our children succeed.

I will keep in touch on the budget, capital project and other matters.

Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools