Most schools in New York state are right around 2 percent for their 2012-13 budget’s tax levy. The Nanuet Schools have come in under the norm at 0.64 percent.
At last night’s meeting, the Nanuet Board of Education met for the first of two budget workshops. They looked at general support, buildings and grounds, transportation, benefits and revenue, while Tuesday’s workshop at will look at staffing and instruction. Tonight’s meeting will be at the high school at 7 p.m.
Tax Levy Limit
Despite the fact that Nanuet has a lower tax levy than the norm in the state, the board is still facing the same issue as everyone else: the 2 percent tax cap (tax levy limit).
“The state’s levy limit, which for us is .64 percent, has (restricted) the amount we can increase the budget. With all the fixed cost increases, we had to look around and find areas to cut in order to preserve program,” said Superintendent Mark McNeill.
The budget increased by 1.60 percent from 2011-12 to 2012-13 and tax levy is .64 percent. In trying to stay within this tax cap, schools are struggling to maintain their quality of education against increasing fixed costs and reduced outside funding.
In an the Nanuet schools addressed a common public misunderstanding about the 2 percent cap. The 2 percent tax levy increase does not equal a 2 percent tax rate increase limit. The schools have a say on the tax levy, which is capped at 2 percent. Then other variables—out of the school's control—causes the final tax rate to end up more than 2 percent. Those variables include the equalization rate, the Pfizer settlement, homestead, non-homestead, etc ...
The Nanuet School District is unfortunately looking at to cut the budget. The .64 percent Nanuet reported to New York State will probably not change, said Phil Sions, assistant superintendent for business.
All New York schools had to report to the state by March 1 what their levy increase would be with the exceptions figured in and if they planned to exceed it, which would require the 60 percent approval by the voters. Schools can make changes until April 21.
“We reduced our debt last year, that was the technology bond (which was $681,000). Because we did what was fiscally responsible for school boards to do, our tax levy is .64 and not 2 percent like everyone else,” said Board President Anne Byrne.
“I think in 2014-15, we have some bonds that need to be refinanced,” said Sions.
The total general support, Building & Grounds, Transportation, Undistributed and Employee Benefits increased by a total of $563,360.
Here’s a quick look at the major budget categories from last night’s workshop. The full public budget is attached to this article as a PDF:What 2011-12 Budget 2012-13 Budget $ Change Total General Support $7,901,054 $7,678,156 -$222,898
Under general support, the Board of Education costs reduced by $11,433, Chief School Administrative Office increased by only $900, Finance decreased by almost $10,000 and Staff decreased b $71,351—thanks to an approximately $82,000 cut from the legal department.
Central Services reduced by about $100,000, which includes ‘Operation of Plant’ and ‘Maintenance of Plant.’ It was clarified that a reduction in this are will not affect ongoing dollars needed to ensure that the schools will stay in good shape.
Also, the schools are switching to an alternative security method that is more effective and saves money.
A reduction of the MTA Payroll tax by about $108,00 meant that Special Items—Contractual Expense in the budget could come in at -$30,000.
“We finally got relief from the MTA Payroll Tax,” said Byrne.
The BOCES administrative costs increased $8,283. This includes things such as the fact that BOCES has to process all the state assessments and does the district’s K-12 alerts.
Another topic was fuel. Rudy Villanyi, the facilities director, said that the school usually runs fuel oil and natural gas but because there was no interrupted service this year, mostly natural gas was used.
“There are two sets of boilers at the high school that run strictly just oil. With the equipment we installed with the performance contract and with the mild winter, we’re probably looking at $50,000 less than last year on fuel oil,” he said. The new equipment is more efficient and cost effective.What 2011-12 Budget 2012-13 Budget $ Change Total Pupil Transportation $2,376,449
“We have one child going to a school in New City and it’s costing us $47,000 to transport (that student),” said Byrne. “
Sions added that he would look into it and find out if there is a more cost-efficient solution.What 2011-12 Budget 2012-13 Budget $ Change Community Services—Census $500 $0 -$500
Total Undistributed $17,787,724 $18,406,360 $618,636
Undistributed Funds includes
- Employee benefits, which increased by $1,291,243
- Debt service, which increased by $58,674
- Interfund transfers, which decreased by $731,281
The three largest increases in these categories were:
- Teacher’s retirement by $793,212
- Health insurance (hospital, medical, dental) by $460,101
- State Retirement (for non-professional staff) by $177,955
“These items are not under our control,” said Byrne.
The debt service increase is from the “interest on the ban on the Pfizer settlement. Next year we pay the interest and the first year of the principal, so next year, it’ll be pretty big numbers,” said Byrne.
Future of NYS Schools
“By the end of next year, there are going to be several school districts in the State who are going to be in trouble,” said Byrne. “(Some say they) have no fund balance left and the 2 percent is not going to cover their health insurance and pension costs.”
Byrne added that There is a school in upstate New York that has had to cut their AP courses and a lot of their music and art programs simply because they couldn’t afford it. Now their kids can’t get into competitive schools, even competitive state schools.
On the topic of the BOCES administrative costs for processing assessments, Byrne—who is also a Board Director for the New York State School Board Association—said that at the last NYSSBA meeting, it was mentioned computerized testing may be possible by 2014-15.
“We are positioning ourselves for that (technology transition),” said Ursula Carbone, Nanuet’s director of technology. “That’s why we’re building the wireless. We’re moving toward that … with the laptops in Highview and wireless there and the machinery over in the middle school. We’re in a good position to do that.”
She said that some school districts did not have enough computers for this type of testing and others had enough equipment but may not have enough broadband or infrastructure to handle “every fourth grader pushing ‘Enter’ at the same time.”
“One of the things that is a big conversation is, what happens when every child in the fourth grade in New York State hits the ‘Enter’ button at the same time on that day for that assessment, do they have the back infrastructure built to accept that data,” added Carbone.
Another topic discussed was the trend of decreasing enrollment in schools. Although Nanuet is “stabilized in enrollment, other schools are decreasing. They’re seeing it (a decline) in kindergarten and lower grades.”