2013-14 budget approved by voters
On May 21, Guilderland Central School District residents approved a $91,023,200 budget for the 2013-14 school year by a vote of 1,778 (yes) to 1,011 (no). This budget represents a 1.98 percent increase in spending over the current year’s budget and will result in a 3.39 percent tax levy increase for district residents. Tax rates are estimated to increase by the same amount.
Voters also approved a $1,013,000 bus and equipment proposition to purchase ten new buses and a commercial mower by a vote of 1,728 (yes) to 1,049 (no) and elected three members to the Board of Education. Official election results are as follows:
- Gloria Towle-Hilt (1,798 votes)
- Colleen O’Connell (1,790 votes)
- Barbara Fraterrigo (1,779 votes)
Want to learn more about the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA)?
The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) law was first introduced for the 2010-11 fiscal year by then-Governor Paterson as a way to help close New York’s then $10 billion budget deficit. Under the legislation, a portion of the funding shortfall at the state level is divided among all school districts throughout the state and reflected as a reduction in school district state aid. The GEA is a negative number, money that is deducted from the aid originally due to the district. In 2012-13, Guilderland Central School District saw an overall loss in funds of $4.1 million as a result of the GEA. Since the program began three years ago, the total GEA reduction in school aid for GCSD amounts to $12.3 million and the district is expected to see an additional reduction of $4 million in 2013-14.
Schools slated to receive increase in aid; a closer look at projections for GCSD
March 27, 2013—While the New York State legislature has yet to officially adopt a budget for 2013-14, state leaders are projecting an increase in state aid for public schools beyond what was originally included in Governor Cuomo’s executive budget. Guilderland Central School District is slated to receive a net increase in aid of $374,095 beyond what the district was projecting in the Superintendent’s budget proposal.
However, the district’s total year-to-year increase in aid will be only $77,890 or 0.37 percent. (See detailed explanation below)
“In today’s economic environment, an increase in aid of any amount is welcome news for school districts,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marie Wiles. “Still, the year-to-year increases in school aid are not keeping pace with the costs of public education. Guilderland, like districts throughout the state, will continue to be challenged as we try to balance our mission of education all students with our responsibility to local taxpayers.”
The restoration in state funding follows months of regional and statewide advocacy to provide adequate and equitable funding for education.
“We are very appreciative of the work our local elected officials have done to shine a spotlight on the need for more adequate school funding and for their commitment to making a change in Albany,” said Wiles. “We also want to recognize the hard work our parents, students, staff and community members who have advocated for our schools throughout the past several weeks. By writing letters, making phone calls, sending e-mails and attending rallies, their voices have been heard by those who can bring about meaningful change for our students and our schools.”
Also included as part of the aid increase is a $418, 856 restoration of the district’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) for the 2013-14 school year. The district was originally set to lose $4.1 million as a result of the GEA but will instead now see a loss of $3.7 million.
“While definitely a step in the right direction, the projected GEA restoration is only ten percent of what has been taken away from the district,” said Wiles.
The GEA law was first introduced for the 2010-11 fiscal year by then-Governor Paterson as a way to help close New York’s then $10 billion budget deficit. Under the legislation, a portion of the funding shortfall at the state level is divided among all school districts throughout the state and reflected as a reduction in school district state aid. The GEA is a negative number, money that is deducted from the aid originally due to the district. In 2012-13, Guilderland Central School District saw an overall loss in funds of $4.1 million as a result of the GEA. Since the program began three years ago, the total GEA reduction in school aid for GCSD amounts to $12.3 million.
News of a state aid increase for Guilderland comes just more than a week in advance of the Board of Education finalizing a spending plan for the upcoming school year. As they prepare to adopt the budget on April 9, the Board will consider its options for the allocation of the additional aid: restoration of programs and staff, lowering the tax levy, reducing the fund balance allocation previously earmarked in the superintendent’s budget proposal—or a combination of all three options.
A closer look at Guilderland’s projected year-to-year increase in state aid
While local media outlets have reported that Guilderland Central School District will receive an increase in state aid of $832,146 (+5.2 percent) over what the district is receiving in the current school year, as stated above this figure is not exactly as it seems. GCSD is actually looking at an aid increase of $77,890 or 0.37 percent over the current school year.
State aid calculations are complicated, at best, and are based on estimates and projections. Actual aid amounts for school districts are often above or below the number published by the state, based on numerous factors.
For example, at the time of the state budget adoption last spring (2012), GCSD’s aid for 2012-13 was projected by the state as $21,404,580 (+3.85 percent). However, based on actual figures of enrollment and expenses, the district is slated to receive only $20,669,790 in state aid for the current school year—almost $735,000 less than what was shown on the state aid run.
Looking at 2013-14 and the recent aid numbers released, GCSD is slated to receive $21,422,161 (+5.22 percent excluding building aid) in the upcoming school year. Following the pattern of last year, and many years prior to that, district leaders took a closer look at the state’s projections and developed a more realistic estimate of projected aid. After making adjustments that reduced aid in the areas of special education, BOCES, and transportation, and accounting for the amount of aid received below what was anticipated in 2012-13, GCSD arrived at the expected year-to-year increase in aid of $77,890.
Superintendent presents 2013-14 proposed budget
March 1, 2013—At a special meeting held Feb. 28, Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Marie Wiles presented a 2013-14 budget to members of the Board of Education and community that included $2 million in reductions to produce a balanced budget in the face of unprecedented economic challenges including rising costs, reduced education aid and the state’s property tax levy limit.
The budget proposal, totaling $90,803,920, represents a 1.73 percent increase in spending over the current year’s budget and would result in an estimated tax levy and tax rate increase of 3.52 percent for district residents–just under the district’s maximum allowable tax levy limit as calculated under the state’s “tax cap” guidelines.
“Crafting a budget that meets the needs of both our students and our community members is always a balancing act,” said Wiles. “We have to weigh mission with money, and in these tough fiscal times, the balancing act is more challenging than ever.”
In preparing the draft proposal, Wiles considered the analysis of data, enrollment and student needs/interests along with feedback from the community and Board of Education. In addition, the professional input and judgment of her colleagues played in integral role in the items presented for discussion at the meeting.
“We always consider the impact of changes on children first–working to direct resources to where the need is most significant and preserving educational opportunities wherever possible,” said Wiles. “Reductions driven by declining enrollment or a reduced number of sections, as well as those informed by data indicating a decrease in needed services, were enacted first. Wherever possible, we avoided reductions proposed only to close the district’s $2.1 million budget gap.”
Included in the proposal is the reduction of 31.45 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, including 11.35 FTE teachers, 9.0 FTE teaching assistants, 1.6 FTE administrators, and 9.5 FTE support staff spread across all three levels as well as district-wide.
The budget also calls for the reduction of one house principal at the middle school and the elimination of the elementary and middle school FTEs in the enrichment program—topics widely discussed at Community Conversation events held earlier this year.
In addition, the proposed spending plan maintains existing levels of teaching assistant support for kindergarten; the Instructional Support Team position at the middle school; a grade six common core teaching position as well as existing levels of grade six technology and special areas; advanced placement and elective opportunities at the high school; and the existing “in-house” model for physical therapy services. The draft budget also restores the high school “X” program to its original capacity of two sections per grade level.
“Our district mission, vision, goals and priorities resonate in our minds at all times as we make these difficult decisions,” said Wiles. “While recommending reductions is never easy, this proposal will enable the district to continue to provide the programs and services that are in the best long-term interests of the children we serve.”
How is a proposed 3.52 percent increase within the cap?
As part of the presentation on Feb. 28, Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders outlined the impact that the state’s “tax cap” is having on the district’s budget proposal. Now in its second year, New York’s property tax levy “cap” has often been referred to as a “2 percent cap” on taxes by some politicians and the media. However, this is incorrect. The law does not restrict any proposed tax levy increase to 2 percent—or any other amount. Instead, the legislation requires each school district in the state to calculate its own tax levy limit to determine what level of voter support is necessary for budget approval. The figure “2 percent” (or the rate of inflation, if less) is just one of eight variables that factor into each district’s calculation of its individual tax levy limit as prescribed by law.
Under the state’s calculation, for 2013-14 Guilderland Central School District has a lax levy limit plus exclusions of $65,597,963. This is our maximum allowable levy limit to pass the budget with a simple majority of voters (50 percent + 1).
The tax levy proposed in the Superintendent’s budget is $65,597,920 — less than what the district is allowed to propose if seeking a simple majority for the passage of its budget. That is why even with the proposed 3.52 percent increase in the tax levy for next year, the district is within the property “tax cap” limit according to the law.
“The district had a choice of whether or not to exceed the tax levy threshold set by the state,” explained Wiles, “but we are living in very difficult economic times and our taxpayers have an expectation that their tax burden will be modest. The vast majority of the proposed reductions in my budget proposal are a result of declining enrollment, fewer sections, reduced levels of student need or operational efficiencies. It just didn’t seem like the right time to ask our community to pay more.”
Taking a closer look
Based on feedback from the community and Board of Education, and reflecting the professional judgment and experience of the Superintendent and District Office Team, the following items have been enacted in the proposed budget.
By area, proposed changes in the 2013-14 budget include:
- Elementary Instruction and Staffing
- Eliminate elementary enrichment position (-1.0 FTE, $72,000)
- Reduce TA hours for reading support at GES (-11 hrs, $55,200)
- Reduce TA hours for reading support at PBES (-6.5 hrs, $30,600)
- Reduce TA hours for math support at PBES (-2.5 hrs, $6,050)
- Reduce nursing clerical support at WES (-1 hr, $2,120)
- Reduce cafeteria monitors at AES, LES and WES (-6 hrs, $12,750)\
- Middle Level Instruction and Staffing
- Reduce administration from three (3) house principals to two (2) house principals (-1.0 FTE, $125,000)
- Reduce clerical support by one 11-month position (-1.0 FTE, $44,900)
- Eliminate middle school enrichment program (-1.0 FTE, $72,000)
- Eliminate one reading position (-1.0 FTE, $72,000)
- Reduce one section each of 7th grade special areas (technology, family and consumer science, Art, PE Health, General Music) due to enrollment (-0.4 FTE, $20,600)
- High School Instruction and Staffing
- Reduce English teacher positions and restore ELA/SS “X” sections from one per grade level to two per grade level (-3.0 FTE, $216,000)
- Reduce one section of non-Regents Algebra 2 and Trigonometry (-0.2 FTE, $10,300)
- Reduce one section of Core Biology (co-taught) (-0.3 FTE, $15,450)
- Reduce two hall monitors (-11.5 hrs, $46,800)
- Reduce copy room clerical position (-0.5 FTE, $21,280)
- Summer school cost savings ($18,340)
- Special Areas and Athletics
- Reduce one section of Ceramics I at high school (-.10 FTE, $5,150)
- Eliminate one section of Advanced Art I (-.20 FTE, $10,300)
- Reduce one section of 7th grade Art at FMS due to decline in enrollment (-.05 FTE, $2,575)
- Reduce one section of 7th grade General Music at FMS due to decline in enrollment (-.05 FTE, $2,575)
- Reduce staffing for high school music lessons at GHS (-0.50 $25,750)
- Eliminate music equipment purchases; reduce supply, professional services codes ($22,260)
- Reduce sections of 7th grade physical education and health at FMS due to decline in enrollment (-0.15 FTE, $7,725)
- Reduce physical education sections at the elementary level due to reduced classroom sections (-0.4 FTE, $20,600)
- Eliminate assistant coaching positions (wrestling, boys’ JV lacrosse, girls’ JV lacrosse, boys’ varsity soccer, girls’ varsity soccer and gymnastics) ($22,522)
- Eliminate JV Golf ($4,122)
- Reduce one section of German at 7th grade at FMS (-0.2 FTE, $10,300)
- Reduce one section of Spanish at 6th grade due to enrollment (-0.2 FTE, $10,300)
- Reduce on section of Spanish at 7th grade due to enrollment (-0.2 FTE, $10,300)
- Reduce two sections of Spanish 3 at GHS due to fewer student requests (-0.4 FTE, $20,600)
- Offer one section of Italian at 6th grade at FMS (Cost Neutral)
- Increase ESL to meet early literacy needs/additional students (+.75, +$54,000)
- Special Education
- Reduce special education teacher at PBES (-1.0 FTE, $72,000)
- Reduce special education teacher at AES (-0.4 FTE, $20,600)
- Reduce special education TA positions district wide due to decline in need for one-to-one assistants (-5.6 FTE, $162,400)
- Reduce private and BOCES special education services ($214,560)
- Reduce two placements at BOCES: students recommended for discharge ($56,000)
- Educational Support Services
- Eliminate custodial worker position at WES (-0.5 FTE, $22,350)
- Eliminate custodial worker position at FMS (-1.0 FTE, $40,700)
- Reduce courier position from 12 month to 10 month position ($8,350)
- Eliminate bus driver positions (-3.0 FTE, $102,330)
- Eliminate bus mechanic position (-1.0 FTE, $54,600)
- Reduce Utilities/Services ($182,000)
- Transition to Google Apps for Education ($32,070)
- Discontinue StarBase Server Support ($14,590)