Read the 2013 Budget Newsletter HERE
Although often referred to as a “2 percent tax cap,”
New York’s new tax levy “cap” law does not restrict any
proposed tax levy increase to 2 percent. Pursuant to the law,
each school district must follow an 8-step calculation,
outlined here, to calculate its individual “tax levy limit.”
That limit then determines what level of voter support is
required for budget approval.
Along with the budget, there are two propositions on the May 21 ballot—one to expend money from the capital reserve fund, and one to purchase a replacement school bus. The first proposition authorizes the district to expend money from its capital reserve fund to make repairs and renovations at each of the district’s school buildings. These high-priority repairs, such as roof replacement and asbestos removal at the high school, were approved by voters last year as part of the district’s capital project proposal. In addition to the prior voter approval that authorized placing money into reserve for the project, voter approval is also required to expend money from that reserve.
The second proposition will allow the district to purchase one 64-passenger school bus to replace a 1998 bus in the district’s fleet with 148,000 miles on it. The age of the bus requires additional maintenance in order to pass state-mandated biannual inspections. If approved, the purchase of the bus would not increase this proposed budget. The district plans on financing the bus purchase with the first loan payment due in the 2014-15 school year. The district estimates that the net annual cost to the taxpayers, after state aid, will be around $7,000 per year over five years.
The $38.3 million 2013-14 school budget proposal represents a budget-to-budget spending decrease of $660,465, or 1.7 percent. The proposed budget uses $1.7 million in savings from previous years to keep the tax levy increase to 2.5 percent for next school year. Nearly 15 staff and teaching positions are eliminated within the proposal. Some of the district’s special education, health services, and enrichment programs are being restructured into new delivery models.
Staff retirements, position reductions, and retirement of debt from the 1997 capital project combined to generate much of the savings in the budget-to-budget expenditure decrease. The proposed budget decreases spending in every major budget category except employee benefits—a category in which expenditures are defined and required by either New York State law, or the contracts of the district’s employee groups.
The Board of Education and district leadership worked to maintain as much of the educational program as possible when making necessary reductions in spending for 2013-14. Of the positions eliminated in next year’s budget proposal, most involve work that is extremely valuable to the overall function of the district, yet are not directly educating students. The teaching positions eliminated were based largely on enrollment figures— fewer students require fewer teachers at various grade levels within the district.
In other areas, district health services and enrichment programs are being restructured into new delivery models. The district has taken many steps over the years to build a continuum of services for all students. While it is important to provide programs to students who struggle, it is equally important to provide opportunities for students who excel. Glens Falls currently provides more than twenty-five programs and opportunities for students to challenge themselves—along with opportunities in athletics, music, drama, math team, and a range of academic clubs. Our district’s economic context has required that we look for new ways to meet our students’ needs and fulfill our mission. And as a school community, we will continue to look for ways that we can provide opportunities to enrich all of our students in a meaningful way.
All Glens Falls City School District voters, including those in the town of Queensbury within Glens Falls City Schools—will cast their votes at Sanford Street School from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21. To be eligible to vote, a resident must have lived in the school district for at least 30 days prior to the May 21 election, be a citizen of the United States, be at least 18 years of age, and be registered to vote with the school district.
Residents who will not be able to go to the polls on May 21 can apply for an absentee ballot at the District Office (15 Quade Street). If you’d like your absentee ballot mailed to you, the application deadline is this coming Tuesday (7 days before the vote). If you’re picking up your absentee ballot in person, applications will be accepted until May 20. Absentee ballots must be received by the district clerk by 5 p.m. on May 21.
April 25, 2013—The Glens Falls City Schools Board of Education adopted a $38.3 million budget proposal for 2013-14 at its special meeting on April 22. If approved by voters on Tuesday, May 21, the spending plan would increase the tax levy by 2.5 percent, which is lower than the district’s maximum allowable tax levy increase of 3.31 percent. The months-long budget development process resulted in a plan that decreases spending by $660,465, or 1.70 percent from the current year, after district leaders discussed difficult cost-reduction scenarios to close a nearly $2 million gap between projected expenditures and revenues.
“Last year, we were fortunate to be able to use more than $3 million in fund balance to maintain programs and services,” said Superintendent Paul Jenkins, referring to unallocated money left over at the end of a given school year. “We knew last year that we wouldn’t have that amount of fund balance available again. So we find ourselves forced to make some reductions we were able to avoid last year.”
The proposed budget decreases spending in every major budget category except employee benefits, a category in which expenditures are defined and required by either New York State law, or the contracts of the district’s employee groups. Changes made from the current year’s budget include:
Many of the reductions made were based on student enrollment. While staffing adjustments are made each year based on specific grade-level enrollment figures, the total student population district-wide has been declining for several years. In 1995, the district educated 2,823 students. In 2012-13, overall enrollment dropped to 2,100 students.
“The board worked hard to maintain our educational program, and keep cuts away from the classroom as much as possible,” said Mr. Jenkins. “Throughout the process, we heard from residents who deeply value the programs and services we provide for our students. We also heard from residents who are deeply concerned about tax increases and spending. The board worked to strike a balance between some very difficult decisions that affect our school community as a whole.”
The budget was adopted by the Board after an open process that included a community budget forum in early February, followed by a series of six budget work sessions that began on February 28 and covered each of the district’s major areas of spending and revenue. Materials from each event can be found under the “2013-14 Budget Development” tab on the district’s web site, www.gfsd.org.
The public vote on the school budget proposal will be held on Tuesday, May 21 at Sanford Street School from noon to 9 p.m. In addition to the budget, voters will also decide on two propositions.
The first proposition authorizes the district to expend money from its capital reserve fund to make repairs and renovations at each of the district’s school buildings. These high-priority repairs, such as roof replacement and asbestos removal at the high school, were approved by voters last year as part of the district’s capital project proposal. In addition to the prior voter approval that authorized placing money into reserve for the project, voter approval is also required to expend money from that reserve.
The second proposition will allow the district to purchase one 64-passenger school bus to replace an aging 1998 bus in the district’s fleet with 148,000 miles on it. If approved by voters, the purchase and associated borrowing will occur in September of 2013, with the first debt payment due in the 2014-15 school year.
Voters will also elect two candidates to serve on the Board of Education. Candidate nominating petitions are due on May 1. A public hearing on the budget proposal will be held on May 7 at 7 p.m. at the district offices.
Residents of Glens Falls City Schools and Abraham Wing heard about multiple factors affecting the school budget for 2013-14 as they came together at Crandall Library Wednesday, February 6, 2013, to discuss their priorities for Glens Falls’ educational program.
“It’s not us versus them,” said Superintendent Paul Jenkins as he outlined current program offerings and fiscal challenges in a PRESENTATION to the group. “My feeling really is that we’re in this together. This is one school district because our students graduate from one school,” he continued.
The presentation began by highlighting current program offerings at the Glens Falls elementary, middle and high school levels. “The one thing I think is extremely important for us to think about is right now, even though we have two school districts in one city, every student, whether they’re in Abe Wing or whether they’re in Glens Falls City School District, comes through the Glens Falls City Schools starting in seventh grade,” Mr. Jenkins said. “They graduate from our school, so they’re our students. This [budget] is something that’s going to affect students in Abe Wing and Glens Falls no matter what.”
Glens Falls is developing two preliminary budget proposals until March 13, when voters in Abraham Wing will decide on whether or not to consolidate with the city school district. Residents got a look at estimated expenditures under a $42.7 million “Budget A” for a consolidated school district with no cuts to staffing or programs, and a $40.1 million “rollover” “Budget B” for Glens Falls City Schools alone. Mr. Jenkins stressed that the budget expenditure outlines were simplified and preliminary.
A consolidated district would receive more than $27 million in additional state aid over 14 years, including $2.8 million extra for the 2013-14 school year.
“We know that with a consolidation, the tax rate for Abe Wing would increase,” said Mr. Jenkins. “And using some of that consolidation aid would help to stabilize that, or to lower that. It would also help to preserve some of the programs we have.”
Mr. Jenkins discussed estimated true value tax rates under a consolidation scenario. Using half of the consolidation incentive aid to lower the tax levy could result in a city-wide tax rate of 15.08 per thousand, according to the example figures. Abraham Wing’s current true value tax rate in the example is 12.46 per thousand, while Glens Falls’ is 16.81 per thousand.
“That would be a decrease city-wide, and there would be long-lasting effects for the city as a whole, not just the school district, not just the residents,” said Mr. Jenkins. “If we’re talking about bringing in businesses, trying to attract new homeowners, a true value tax rate that is lower that what it currently is will attract businesses and residents.”
Tax rates could also be affected by the outcome of a city school district lawsuit challenging the allocation of assessed value on a parcel of Finch Pruyn property shared between the two districts. One slide in the presentation used example figures that illustrated the shift of assessed value and corresponding tax revenue that could occur if two-thirds of the value is given to Glens Falls, as the suit seeks.
“If there’s a question regarding the allocation of any piece of property, we have to look into it,” said Mr. Jenkins in describing why the district filed suit. “To me, $7.5 million versus $26 million in inequitable,” he continued, referring to the current allocation of the parcel in question. “And my question is ‘why?’”
The presentation also showed anticipated changes in state education aid taken from Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget Proposal. Under the Governor’s proposal, Glens Falls would see an $18,000 increase in aid for 2013-14, while Abraham Wing would take a $56,000 cut. “If we get cuts in aid, the only way to replace that revenue is to cut programs or to raise taxes.”
“We’re looking at increased expenses and decreased revenues,” said Mr. Jenkins. Increases in health insurance rates, salaries, and retirement contributions are some of the biggest factors driving up expenses, said Mr. Jenkins.
“And that’s the law,” Mr. Jenkins said, referring to the required payments into the Employees Retirement System and Teachers Retirement System. “That was done by the lawmakers. It wasn’t done by the superintendents, it wasn’t done by the principals, and it wasn’t done by the teachers.”
New York State lawmakers also recently passed a property tax levy cap that limits the amount of revenue a district can generate through local property taxes. The presentation estimated Glens Falls’ property tax levy cap to be 3.25% for next year, representing the maximum amount the district could increase its overall levy.
“When we’re talking about the expenses versus the revenues, there aren’t a lot of areas for us to make changes without cutting into some of our programs,” Mr. Jenkins said, as the presentation ended and small group discussions began about which programs residents value the most.
Feedback provided through the small group discussions will be complied into a report for the board of education to use throughout budget development. Residents who didn’t attend the forum, but would like to contribute their thoughts and priorities can SUBMIT COMMENTS THROUGH THIS ONLINE FEEDBACK FORM, which is identical to the WORKSHEET forum participants used Wednesday night. Other presentation materials are available on the BUDGET DEVELOPMENT PAGE of the district’s website.
The next budget development meeting is Thursday, February 28 at 7 p.m. in the district office. Residents city-wide are encouraged to attend.
What are our priorities for education next year? In five years? In ten years?
What would millions in incentive aid mean for our city under a district consolidation?
What will we change within our educational program for 2013-14, amid rising costs and fewer resources?
We need to decide together.
Be part of the visioning process as we begin to create the school budget for 2013-14 and beyond—taking into account the possible consolidation of Abraham Wing and Glens Falls City Schools.
The entire Glens Falls community is invited to participate in this community-visioning budget forum on Wednesday, February 6 at 7 p.m. at Crandall Public Library. Glens Falls City School District will outline two budget scenarios for 2013-14: one in which the two districts remain separate, and one in which the districts consolidate.
Facilitated small groups will work through these important questions as we develop our shared vision for a Glens Falls education. Please RSVP to Amy Towers at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know we can count on your participation – and your voice.