A: The annual school budget DOES contain funds to support the regular upkeep, cleaning and maintenance of the district’s one million square feet of buildings (the equivalent of 400 median-sized homes!) and 265 acres of grounds.
However, the cost of more significant projects, like roofing, paving, heating and ventilation work or major renovation is too costly to be included in the regular operating budget of the school district, especially with a tax cap on the levy.
That’s why the New York State has provided a mechanism through which school districts can bond for capital improvement projects and access state aid to complete major work. The state recognizes that it is not feasible for a school district to include major capital costs in its annual operating budget. That why costs associated with borrowing for capital projects are explicitly excluded under the tax levy limit calculation.
A: While some school districts opt to do very large capital improvement projects every 10 or 15 or even 20 years, the Guilderland Central School district has chosen to propose smaller capital projects every 5 to 6 years.
We believe that there are many benefits to our approach. Smaller, more frequent projects allow for work in multiple buildings at the same time focusing on a section or wing of a building. This approach makes the construction more manageable and less disruptive given that the majority of the work must be completed during summer when school is out of session. This approach also allows for a mix of old and new systems, meaning that should a roof or system fail, the impact is limited to a portion of the building, not the entire building. Finally, smaller more frequent projects help to lessen the cost impact to taxpayers. Schools that do very large projects once every 15 to 20 years have buildings where entire roofs and systems age and fail at the same time leading to much disruption and substantial costs.
A: Education is a people business. Without people, a school district cannot fulfill its mission to educate children. In Guilderland, we are committed to meeting the academic and social emotional needs of our students by educating the whole child. In addition to those who are directly involved in students’ academic programming, the district employs nurses, bus drivers, school lunch workers, monitors, clerical staff, cleaning and maintenance staff who work together to provide students a safe, clean, well-equipped environment in which to learn.
In our Thoughtexchange this winter, we asked our community what they valued most about our school district. The number one “thought” was about the importance of the high quality of our teachers and staff. It makes sense that a large part of our annual spending (79.1% for 2019-2020) supports the people (their salary and benefits) who do the work of Guilderland schools.
A: The Guilderland Central School District spends $4,635 less, per pupil, than the average of all New York State Schools.
The Guilderland Central School District spends $8,096 less, per pupil than the average of similar/low needs districts in the state.
Compared to the 13 school districts in the Suburban Council, Guilderland’s per pupil spending is AVERAGE among them.
*This is the most recent data we have, from the 2016-17 school year.
Q. What is included in the proposed district budget to support smaller class sizes and overall academics?
A: The community has been clear that smaller class sizes and quality academic programs are a priority. This budget supports staffing that results in a district-wide class size average of 20.6 for Grades K-2; an average of 20.9 for Grades 3-5 and an average of 25 for Grades 6-8. In addition, the budget maintains all existing academic programs, including enrichment programs in Grades K-8 and a wide variety of electives at the high school.
Q. How would the proposed budget affect my taxes? Is it within the cap?
A: The proposed tax levy increase of 1.44% is below the tax levy limit that is calculated for 2019-20 through a prescribed state formula. As a result, the budget requires the support of a simple majority (50% + 1) of voters to be approved.
Residents’ tax bills are determined by several factors that are out of the district’s control, including assessment levels and equalization rates, which are set by the New York State Office of Real Property Services.
Final tax rates cannot be determined until the summer when final assessments and equalization rates become available. The estimated tax rate decreases for the four towns that comprise the school district are as follows:
Q. Are there any savings in the proposed district budget?
A: Yes. The proposed 2019-20 district budget incorporates savings from lower costs for some expenditures to make possible additions to programs and services and maintain class sizes within district guidelines.
Anticipated savings will be realized from lower health insurance premiums resulting from changes to employee health insurance plan benefits, a reduction in the mandated employer contribution rate to the Teachers’ Retirement System, expiring debt from previous building improvement projects, and fewer students requiring out-of-district BOCES placements.
Q. What is a “fund balance” and how does it help offset the amount of my school taxes?
A: A fund balance is created when a district receives more revenue than expected and/or spends less than the amount budgeted. As part of the 2019-20 budget, GCSD plans to allocate $849,500 from its fund balance to lower the total tax levy and reduce the tax impact on district residents in the coming year.