GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District on Tuesday conducted a virtual public hearing on the proposed $68.19 million 2020-21 school budget that will be presented to district voters by absentee ballot next month.
District Treasurer Cathy Meher during the livestreamed public hearing presented an overview of the $68.19 million budget adopted by the Board of Education during the May 18 meeting. The proposed budget represents a 1.72 percent increase over the current year’s $67.04 million budget.
The proposed budget carries a 2 percent tax levy increase that would raise the levy to a total of $15.31 million, up from the current year’s levy of $15.01 million. The proposed tax hike is below the district’s tax cap of 2.33 percent.
The budget includes an estimated $47.98 million in state aid, down from the current year’s $48.05 million. Meher noted that state aid to districts that is normally determined following the passage of the state budget has not yet been decided with state aid included in the 2020-21 budget projected from 2019-20 foundation aid figures and adjustments based on information provided by the state for aid planning purposes and advice from the district’s financial advisors.
School budget planning has been complicated this year following the approval of the state budget by lawmakers on April 3 that keeps state aid to school districts flat at the 2019-20 level while allowing the state to adjust or reduce aid over the course of the year based on actual revenues received by the state.
The state is projecting a budget shortfall this year due to expenditures related to the coronavirus and losses in revenue related to restrictions closing non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the virus. Any cuts in state aid will be determined following three “measurement periods” running from April 1 to 30, May 1 to June 30 and July 1 to Dec. 31.
Although the first measurement period has concluded, state aid figures for school districts have not yet been released while state officials wait for lawmakers to approve another federal relief package that is expected to include aid to states and to county and local governments.
Given the uncertainty over state aid which makes up over 70 percent of the district’s revenue, the district has sought to balance this year’s budget in part through a $1.79 million fund balance allocation, a $1.15 million increase over the $642,092 fund balance allocation included the current year’s budget.
“While this is a one shot revenue and not the best way to balance a budget, with no firm state aid figures it is the most fiscally responsible way to provide a sound education for our children and keep the tax levy increase at a minimum,” said Meher.
Faced with potential rolling cuts to state aid throughout the year, the district sought to control spending in this year’s proposed budget, scaling back expenditures from the initial draft budget that was introduced in early March.
The finalized budget features a $1.4 million increase for general teaching and instructional costs to a total of $33.64 million due to the rising cost of additional students attending special education and Pathways in Technology Early College High School programs through HFM BOCES and contractual salary obligations. Expenses in this category rose despite the elimination of 12 teaching positions and three clerical positions across the district through attrition in all except for one instance.
The initial staffing cuts are not expected to impact educational or extracurricular course offerings to students. In the event state aid is reduced significantly, the district will cut another 15 positions through layoffs.
District Superintendent David Halloran during the May 18 school board meeting noted that reduction in force notices had been issued to the impacted staff members whose positions if eliminated would result in reduced course offerings at certain section levels and increased class sizes. Halloran stated that the district hopes it will not have to follow through with the layoffs and expressed regret over the anxiety caused by the uncertain aid situation.
The school budget includes a $752,540 increase to debt service payments to a total of $11.03 million next school year due to principal and interest payments for existing and future bond and bond anticipation notes.
The district will see decreased expenditures of $512,840 in general support costs to a total of $6.15 million and $454,515 in fringe benefits to a total of $14.3 million next year. The reductions are a result of cost savings for receiving services through HFM BOCES, the elimination of purchases for classroom furniture and maintenance equipment and falling insurance costs related to staff cuts.
Meher in her presentation noted that Cuomo has not established a date for a revote and if the proposed budget is defeated, the school board may choose to adopt a contingency budget which could not exceed the current year’s tax levy or the district’s administrative component cap and would require the removal of “non-contingent” expenses or expenses beyond ordinary costs needed to provide the minimum services legally required of the school district.
Under a contingency budget, Meher said the district would be forced to reduce the proposed budget by $300,349. Following the removal of equipment expenses encompassing the purchase of two vans, a 66-passenger bus, a 30-passenger bus and a 24-passenger bus included in the transportation budget Meher said another $2,653 would need to be trimmed from the expense budget.
The vehicle purchases were included in the budget in part to limit district expenses related to providing transportation as required by law to students living outside of the city limits and children within the city with special needs through outside contracts.
“These runs need to be bid and are extremely expensive, so every effort is made to provide the services in-house whenever possible,” said Meher.
Meher went on to note that 93 percent of the budget would go unchanged if defeated by voters with salaries, benefits, BOCES, special education and debt service costs to remain the same under a contingency budget.
“Expenses that are considered ordinary contingent expenses are not effected by a no vote,” said Meher. “Please consider this as you cast your vote.”
The budget will be presented to voters during the district budget vote that will be conducted by absentee ballot on June 9. All registered voters in the district will receive ballots by mail this week with a postage paid oath envelope that must be returned by mail and received by the district by June 9 at 5 p.m.
District voters will also be asked to consider three propositions to establish three separate capital reserve funds. Each of the reserves could be funded over several years with money remaining at the end of the any school year as of June 30. The reserve funds would be for construction with the fund total not to exceed $5 million, bus and vehicle purchases not to exceed $3.5 million and technology not to exceed $3 million.
Voters will also elect three candidates to three open seats on the Board of Education. The candidates are incumbents John Lott and Sharon Poling and newcomer Mike Oathout.
The school district did not receive any comments or questions submitted by email during the public hearing on the budget that was conducted remotely due to restrictions related to the coronavirus. The budget hearing was recorded and will be posted to the district website today at gesdk12.org.
Halloran noted that the district will continue to accept and respond to comments or questions on the budget submitted by email at [email protected] or by mail addressed to 234 Lincoln St. Gloversville, NY 12078.