2015-16 budget approved by voters
*Updated May 20, 2015—On Tuesday, May 19, Guilderland Central School District residents approved a $93,689,600 budget for the 2015-16 school year by a vote of 1879 (yes) to 737 (no). This budget represents a 1.69 percent increase in spending over the current year’s budget and will result in a 2.76 percent tax levy increase for district residents. Tax rates are estimated to increase by less than that amount at 2.12 for residents of the Town of Guilderland.
Voters approved a $1,160,000 capital improvement proposition to make needed improvements in the high school auditorium and on the high school football field and track, by a vote of 1766 (yes) and (832) no. Voters also approved a $1,125,000 bus and equipment proposition to purchase 11 new buses and one maintenance plow truck by a vote of 1824 (yes) and 781 (no) and elected three members to the Board of Education. Election results are as follows:
- Catherine Barber (1302 votes) *elected
- Christine Hayes (1574 votes) *elected
- Seema Rivera (1525 votes) *elected
- Timothy Burke (798 votes)
- Nicholas Fahrenkopf (978 votes)
Voters approve $1,125,000 bus & equipment proposition
*Updated May 20, 2015—On May 19, 2015, Guilderland Central School District residents approved the $1,125,000 bus and equipment proposition. The passed proposition will allow the district to buy 11 new buses and one maintenance plow truck at a total cost of $1,125,000. The school bus proposition breaks down as follows:
- $680,000 for the purchase of six, 66-passenger school buses
- $235,000 for the purchase of two, 66-passenger school buses with chains
- $109,000 for the purchase of two, 30-passenger buses
- $65,000 for one, 24-passenger wheelchair bus
- $36,000 for the purchase of one maintenance plow truck
This proposition will allow the district to replace school buses that have logged on average 140,000 miles over the past 11 to 12 years. The new plow truck will replace an 18-year-old maintenance truck. The cost of the vehicles will be bonded and paid back over a five-year period (beginning in the 2016-17 school year). Approximately 50 percent of the bus purchase will be returned to the district in the form of future state aid, offsetting the local taxpayer share of the proposition by $544,500.
You will notice that the cost of just one of these repairs is almost as much as or exceeds the value of the bus. None of these repairs will significantly increase the resale value nor will they necessarily add life to the bus. In addition, making repairs to aging buses this year does not guarantee that the buses will not need additional repairs next year as they continue to age and clock miles.
Why does the district need new buses each year?
Guilderland typically uses a long-term replacement plan to guide the bus and equipment purchases put before voters each year. This means that each year, a certain number of older buses are phased out and replaced by new models. Yet some have asked: Why do we need new buses every year? The answer is simple. The annual replacement plan of the existing bus fleet has helped to maintain student safety and control repair and maintenance costs on older buses. The replacement plan has also helped the district establish an excellent safety record with the New York State Department of Transportation.
Generally, the district replaces the older buses in our fleet (11, 12 or 13-year old vehicles). These vehicles are typically relegated to the spare bus pool, have higher mileage, higher repair costs, lesser reliability and low resale value. These are also the buses most likely to fail a Department of Transportation inspection—they are retired when it is often no longer cost effective for the district to make the repairs necessary for our fleet to meet the rigorous standards of the state.
In addition, making repairs to aging buses this year does not guarantee the buses will not need additional repairs next year as they continue to clock miles. The cost of continually repairing an older bus and purchasing replacement parts often exceeds the value of the bus and does little to increase its life or reliability.
“The idea is to rotate out buses at the end of their lives and replace them with new ones,” said Transportation Supervisor Danielle Poirier, who explained that the district sells older buses as part of an annual surplus bid. “In addition, new vehicles carry lower maintenance costs for the first five years, when they are still under warranty.”
The State Education Department recommends that districts replace small buses every five to seven years and large buses every ten years. As mentioned above, if approved by voters, the May 19 bus and equipment proposition will allow the district to replace school buses that have logged on average 140,000 miles over the past 11 to 12 years.
“Buses need to be replaced after a certain age to help keep students safe by ensuring the district operates a fleet with modern safety features and that is in good repair,” said Poirier. “Having a well thought out, long-term replacement plan also provides a mechanism for the level funding of purchases over time and minimizes the potential need for a single large purchase that could have a significant budget impact in any one particular year. The district not only saves on potential repair costs but is also able to access state aid reimbursements on new vehicles designed to lessen the financial burden on school districts.”
Weighing the costs…
Listed below are some quick facts about bus resale values for buses at the end of their useful life and the costs of some common repairs experienced when buses reach that point:
- Large bus resale value: $2,000 – $3,000
- Common Repairs (parts and labor):
- Fuel Tank Replacement: $1,800
- Engine Turbocharger Replacement: $1,900
- Radiator Replacement: $2,200
- Transmission Replacement: $3,800
- Rusted Rear Door Replacement: $2,300
- Rusted Step Well Replacement: $2,500
- Rusted Rear Body Panel Replacement: $3,500
- Rusted Side Body Panel Replacement: $4,000
Board of Education adopts $93.7 million spending plan for 2015-16
April 22, 2015—At its meeting on April 21, the Guilderland Board of Education unanimously adopted a $93,689,600 budget for the 2015-16 school year by a vote of 9-0. This proposed budget presents an increase in spending of $1,556,700 (+1.69 percent) over the current year’s budget. If approved by voters on May 19, it would result in a 2.76 percent tax levy increase in the coming year—below the district’s maximum allowable tax levy limit as calculated under the state’s “tax cap” formula. Due to projected assessment growth within the district, tax rates are estimated to increase by less than that amount at 2.12 percent for residents of the Town of Guilderland.
District to see some fiscal relief in coming school year
For the past five years, Guilderland—like districts throughout the state—has faced unprecedented financial challenges. Rising expenses, in combination with the state’s tax levy cap and Gap Elimination Adjustment (learn more about the GEA on page 4), led the district to eliminate 185 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions since 2010. Programs and services were also reduced across the district during that time.
However, this past spring brought some much-needed financial relief, including anticipated total savings of $1,472,000 related to mandated employer contribution rates for the Teachers Retirement System and the Employees Retirement System. In addition, the district received an additional $1.4 million in aid, beyond what was initially projected, as part of the recently adopted state budget.
“After several years of reductions and eliminations, we have a welcome opportunity this year to look at items we haven’t been able to address in recent times due to a lack of resources,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marie Wiles. “District leaders have been meticulously conducting a student-by-student analysis to make sure that resources go exactly where the needs are within the school community. We are also working to shore up our fund balance in a responsible manner.”
The proposed budget addresses changing student needs in multiple areas, restores funding to programs and services reduced in recent budgets, and seeks to put Guilderland on firmer financial footing by rebuilding the district’s fund balance.
In recent years, under challenging fiscal realities, Guilderland has routinely used a portion of its fund balance to preserve programs and services and to help lower the tax impact on district residents. The proposed spending plan looks to add $740,000 back to the district’s fund balance to help replenish the account for future years.
To help guide their work in the budget planning process, district leaders relied on a careful analysis of data, enrollment, and student needs and interests which ultimately led to the final plan adopted by the Board of Education. The district also weighed the feedback of the community, as gathered through multiple public meetings as well as through e-mails and calls received by school leaders and members of the Board throughout the past several months.
A closer look at the proposed spending plan
While staffing levels will decrease in some areas, included in the proposed budget is the net addition of 16.25 FTE positions spread across all three levels as well as district-wide.
Similar to the superintendent’s budget proposal released in February, the adopted spending plan going before voters in May maintains existing levels of kindergarten and first-grade teaching assistant support as well as existing levels of high school instructional staffing in all areas. The plan also maintains all current assistant coaching positions, late bus runs, high school advisor stipends, and custodial worker support.
Proposed additions include increased English as a Second Language and special education teaching support; additional bus driver and bus attendant support; and the addition of an instructional administrator for special education.
Beyond what was initially considered in the superintendent’s budget, the proposed spending plan includes the replacement of computers in the high school east lab; summer maintenance help; aide/monitor support at the high school; science and technology equipment replacement and repair at the high school; additional health and safety support; increased literacy coaching support at Lynnwood; and the restoration of funds to the freshman sports program.