Read the BUDGET NEWSLETTER here (PDF)
All budget meetings are open to the public.
May 20, 2014—Glens Falls City School District residents approved the 2014-15 school budget today by a margin of 684 "yes" votes to 169 “no” votes – an 80.2 percent approval rate. The $38.1 million spending plan will increase the tax levy by 1.53 percent, and represents a budget-to-budget spending decrease of $134,727, or 0.35 percent. The approved budget uses approximately $757,000 of fund balance, and reduces or eliminates 35 staff and teaching positions district-wide.
Suzanne Spector-Tougas and Karin Mauer were elected to the Board of Education. Each will begin a five-year term on July 1, 2014, after receiving 699 and 678 votes, respectively.
Voters also approved expending funds from the capital reserve for repairs and renovations at several of the district’s school buildings. The capital reserve proposition passed by a vote of 725 to 127. These high-priority repairs—including roof replacement and asbestos abatement at the High School, plus asbestos abatement, reconstruction, and improvements at Big Cross and Jackson Heights—were approved by voters in May of 2012 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. By law, the money in this reserve can only be used on this specific set of voter-approved capital improvements.
“The community’s support for our schools is essential to the success of our students,” said Superintendent Paul Jenkins. “And that support comes in many ways—voting each year, attending concerts and games, participating in our budget development process, and volunteering in our schools. We need and appreciate community involvement at every level.”
“Input from district residents is so important to the budget development process,” echoed Board President Dr. Anna Poulos. “This financial landscape forced many difficult choices that affect the positions of highly-valued employees. As we wrestled with these reductions, our overriding goal was to preserve as much of the educational program as possible.”
The budget was adopted by the Board after an open process that included a series of budget work sessions that began on February 27 and covered each of the district’s major areas of spending and revenue. Materials from each event can be found in the column to the right.
April 22, 2014 — The Glens Falls City Schools Board of Education adopted a $38.1 million budget proposal for 2014-15 at its special meeting on April 22. If approved by voters on Tuesday, May 20, the spending plan will increase the tax levy by 1.53 percent, which is the district’s maximum allowable tax levy increase. The months-long budget development process resulted in a plan that decreases spending by $134,727, or 0.35 percent from the current year, uses approximately $757,000 of fund balance, and reduces or eliminates 35 staff and teaching positions district-wide.
Under the proposal:
The finalized budget emerged after district leaders
discussed difficult cost-reduction scenarios to close a nearly
$3.7 million gap between projected expenditures and revenues.
Programs that are preserved in next year’s plan include all
elementary and middle-level music offerings, the modified
sports program, BOCES programs including gifted enrichment,
early college-high school, and alternative education, student
club support, the Varsity Tennis and Cheerleading teams, and
K-12 department chair stipends.
READ THE FULL RELEASE
The public vote on the school budget proposal will be held on Tuesday, May 20 at Sanford Street School from noon to 9 p.m. In addition to the budget, voters will also decide on one ballot proposition.
The proposition authorizes the district to expend money from its capital reserve fund to fulfill “Phase One” of the current science and technology-oriented capital project. These high-priority repairs—including roof replacement and asbestos abatement at the High School, plus asbestos abatement, reconstruction, and improvements at Big Cross and Jackson Heights—were approved by voters in May of 2012 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.
Voters will also elect two candidates to serve on the Board of Education. Candidate nominating petitions are due on April 30.
A public hearing on the budget proposal will be held on May 7 at 7 p.m. at the district offices.
April 8, 2014 — The Glens Falls City Schools Board of Education is close to finalizing a proposed 2014-15 budget, after updated state aid projections were incorporated into working budget projections Thursday night. With a year-over-year increase of $421,385 in state aid revenue now anticipated, district leaders proposed a $38 million plan that would increase the tax levy by the maximum allowable 1.53 percent, use approximately $757,000 of fund balance, and reduce or eliminate 35 staff and teaching positions district-wide.
Under the proposal, 14 teaching positions will be eliminated. Five of those 14 positions are being vacated by retirements. An additional 11 staff positions will be eliminated, with one of those positions being vacated by a retirement. Five full-time teaching positions will be reduced to part-time, and five full-time staff positions will go to part-time. Reductions in athletics, general operating expenses, and curricular supports combine with the staff reductions to total $1.9 million in reduced expenditures. (View the entire PRESENTATION FROM 4.3.14 HERE)
The Board is scheduled to adopt the budget proposal Tuesday, April 22, and it will be put before voters on Tuesday, May 20.
Much of Thursday’s budget presentation included historical data on enrollment, class size averages, pension contribution rates, tax levy increases, and other information to guide discussion. Superintendent Paul Jenkins noted that enrollment has steadily declined since 1994, and the district has lost more than 800 students in that 20-year period. “Our staffing levels need to adjust to our student population,” he said.
“The district’s 2014-18 out-year projections assume a $1.6 million gap in 2015-16, a $2.3 million gap in 2016-17, and a $3.1 million gap in 2017-18 if revenues and expenditures increase as they have been in the last few years, and if we make no changes to staffing and programs beyond what will be made this year,” Mr. Jenkins said, discussing initial projections.
Approximately 40 percent of the district’s operating revenue comes in the form of education aid from the State. Each January, the Governor releases an Executive Budget proposal that serves as the basis for school budget development until a final State budget—and finalized education aid—is agreed to by the Legislature. School aid calculations released with the Governor’s budget showed a .42 percent decrease in overall State funding for Glens Falls City Schools, or a loss of $62,332 from 2013-14 to 2014-15.
In addition, the State proposed recalculating the interest rate reimbursements the district receives for existing debt on building projects. This measure would have reduced State aid by another $49,661, according to information provided by the State Education Department.
“Fortunately, the enacted budget provided additional aid, primarily through a further reduction to the GEA contribution, and by not initiating the interest rate recalculation measure,” said Director of Business Chris Hearley. “As such, the district saw a positive swing of more than $500,000 in State aid from the Governor’s original budget submission.”
Based on the enacted State budget, the district will see a year-over-year gain of $421,385 in total aid.
At the meeting, Mr. Jenkins said he had hoped for more state aid in the form of a substantial reduction of the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). The GEA is a complicated part of the State education funding formula—money that is deducted from the aid originally promised to the district so the State government can close its multi-billion dollar budget deficit. Glens Falls has lost out on nearly $10.7 million since the GEA began in 2010, and will lose another $2 million in 2014-15.
School community members pushed legislators for an end to the GEA in the 2014-15 New York State budget. On March 19, the Middle School PTSA staffed a table for community members to sign letters to legislative leaders and the governor, adding their own personal messages about the impact of the school funding situation. Nearly 500 letters were collected in one day.
On March 20, the High School PTSA staffed a letter-writing
table as well, gathering an additional 384 letters, for a
grand total of 864 personally-signed letters being sent to
legislative leaders in the Senate, Assembly and Governor's
The enacted State budget restored just $527,574 of Glens Falls’ $2.5 million GEA reduction for 2014-15.
“There are no good options here,” Mr. Jenkins said. “When our revenue is heavily dependent on state aid, which we can’t control, and property taxes, which are restricted by a cap, we are left with very few options to address continually rising expenses. I believe we all share the same goal of giving Glens Falls students the best education we can within this fiscal reality. That’s why these reductions were structured to preserve as much of the educational program as possible.”
March 28, 2014 — School community members discussed nearly $2 million in preliminary budget reductions for 2014-15 during the Board of Education’s audit and finance committee meeting Thursday, as district leaders await final aid figures from New York State. The reductions were outlined in a presentation by Superintendent Paul Jenkins, who noted that a gap of $1.3 million still remains, even after the proposed reductions.
“We are facing very difficult decisions this year,” Mr. Jenkins said. “We have talked about this for the last four years, knowing that the decline in funding, the existence of a tax cap, and the increase in expenses would all come to a head. This year is the perfect storm for school districts in New York State. My guess is that without additional state aid, next year will be just as bad, if not worse.”
The proposed reductions include eliminating 25 staff and teaching positions, and reducing another 10 positions from full-time to part-time. The intramural sports program would be discontinued, alongside cuts in hardware and software purchases, field trip transportation, and general operating expenses. “Our main goal is to maintain programs for students,” Mr. Jenkins said. “So when we have to consider reductions, we look to limit the impact on students’ educational opportunities. Yes, instruction will look different moving forward—there may be higher class sizes and fewer electives, but students will still have music, arts, sports, and Advanced Placement classes.”
If the district moves forward with the reductions outlined Thursday, the Board of Education still faces a $1.3 million shortfall between projected income and expenses—a gap that could be closed with additional budget cuts, use of fund balance, additional state aid, or a combination thereof.
“Many people have joined in our advocacy efforts and I know that our legislators are listening,” Mr. Jenkins said, referring to the district’s efforts to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) in the State budget. Glens Falls’ GEA funding loss for 2014-15 is scheduled to be $2.4 million—an amount that would significantly narrow the district’s budget gap if fully restored. “Hopefully, next week our efforts will be reflected in the state budget,” he continued.
Without final education aid figures from the State, any budget reductions remain preliminary, Mr. Jenkins said. Lawmakers have an April 1 deadline to adopt the State budget. Once an overall education aid figure is established by the legislature, the State Education Department will run a complex funding formula to determine the precise amount of aid each school district will receive.
District leaders hope to have a finalized State aid figure by early next week. The next budget development meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 3, at 7 p.m. in the district offices.
March 14, 2014—The Board of Education continued public discussion of the 2014-15 Glens Falls City School District budget at its Audit & Finance committee meeting on March 13 with a look at three tiers of potential reductions that could be used to close an estimated gap of $3.7 million for the coming school year.
Reviewing figures shared at the February 27 budget development meeting, Business Director Chris Hearley said expenditure projections for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would be approximately $40.2 million, a 5.15 percent increase over current year spending. Projected revenues—that assume no increase in the tax levy and are based on state aid projections from Governor Cuomo's proposed 2014-15 state budget—would total $36.5 million. The initial expenditure projection assumes no changes to staffing or programs for the 2014-15 school year, Mr. Hearley explained.
“I cannot stress enough that more than 75 percent of our school budget is people—their salaries and benefits,” Mr. Hearley said. “Accordingly, any significant reduction in expenses will result in having to make difficult choices.”
Superintendent Paul Jenkins presented three tiers of possible reductions for the Board to consider for 2014-15. Tier 1 contains $1.5 million in reductions, including the elimination of 20 full-time staff and faculty positions, across-the-board reductions in operating expenses, discontinuation of half of all student clubs, and elimination of most teaching stipends for additional curricular work.
Tier 2 contains nearly $330,000 in further reductions, including: the reduction of 10 additional staff and faculty positions; elimination of intramural sports, and discontinuation of the tennis, cheerleading, and freshman boys’ basketball teams; removal of the BOCES Early-College High School and gifted enrichment programs; and elimination of K-12 department chair stipends.
Tier 3 contains an additional $415,000 in reductions, including: elimination of at least three additional staff and faculty positions; removal of the BOCES Alternative Education program; loss of band, orchestra and choral programming at the elementary and middle levels; reduction of modified sports; discontinuation of the remaining half of all student clubs; and the loss of loss of fifth-grade special programming.
“It’s a challenge to have these budget discussions when we don’t have concrete state aid figures yet,” said Mr. Jenkins. “Until we know what our aid will be, we have to plan for the worst-case scenario. Our hope and our goal is that we’re not going to have to make all of these cuts to program and staff.”
The necessity to consider cuts arises from a convergence of multiple factors, explained Mr. Jenkins. The past annual practice of using fund balance to keep taxes down and preserve programming creates a “hole” in the following year’s budget, right from the start, he said. “The district used $1.75 million in savings within the current year’s spending plan,” Mr. Jenkins said. “That creates a structurally imbalanced budget—essentially a ‘hole’ that we’re filling each year with savings we’ve generated along the way.”
“Wiping out our entire fund balance wouldn’t even close this year’s gap,” Mr. Jenkins continued. “And once we use it, it’s gone.”
The district’s maximum allowable tax levy increase is 1.53 percent for 2014-15—meaning the district cannot raise the tax levy by more than $297,431 without a supermajority voter approval.
State education aid for 2014-15 remains in flux as well, as budget negotiations continue in Albany, Mr. Jenkins said. According to the Governor’s budget proposal, total aid to Glens Falls would decrease by .42 percent from the current year’s funding. Both the State Senate and Assembly have proposed some additional funding for schools, but none of the proposed budget plans ends the Gap Elimination Adjustment—a mechanism that reduces overall foundation aid due to schools. Glens Falls stands to lose out on $2.4 million in funding for 2014-15 due to the GEA. [For more information on the GEA, and ways community members can advocate for change, see HERE.]
The tiered reductions will be the focus of future Audit and Finance committee meetings on March 27 and April 3. A finalized state budget is statutorily due by April 1 each year, and Mr. Jenkins noted the advocacy efforts school community members have put forth over the past several months.
“Again, these reductions are very preliminary, since we don’t yet have a full picture of our state aid,” Mr. Jenkins said. “We may come back to this table in three weeks with a very different list.”
To view the entire March 13 presentation and for a full calendar of budget meetings and other budget information, see the column to the right on this web page.
February 28, 2014 — The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) has reduced school aid to Glens Falls City Schools by nearly $10.7 million since it began in 2010. Though it was intended to be temporary, the GEA has continued each year, and shows up as another $2.4 million loss for Glens Falls in Governor Cuomo’s 2014-15 budget proposal.
Ending the GEA is one of the district’s top advocacy priorities. Glens Falls has joined with several school districts around the region to press legislators for significant, long-term solutions to the challenges we face with school funding. Getting rid of the GEA would be a major step forward.
If you agree, please make a phone call to the following legislators in Albany. Our main message: “Permanently end the Gap Elimination Adjustment in this year’s budget!” If you would like to send a letter (SAMPLE HERE), use the addresses below.
Senator Betty Little • (518) 743-0968
New York State Senate • 5 Warren Street Suite 3 • Glens Falls, NY 12801
Assemblyman Dan Stec • (518) 792-4546
New York State Assembly • 140 Glen Street • Glens Falls, NY 12801
Governor Andrew Cuomo • (518) 474-8390
Executive Chamber • Capitol Building • Albany, NY 12224
Speaker Sheldon Silver • (518) 455-3791
New York State Assembly • LOB 932 • Albany, NY 12248
Senator Dean Skelos, Majority Leader • (518)
New York State Senate • 330 Capitol Building • Albany, NY 12247
Senator Jeffrey Klein, Majority Leader •
New York State Senate • 913 LOB • Albany, NY 12247
Senator John Flanagan, Education Committee Chair •
New York State Senate • 805 LOB • Albany, NY 12247
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Education Committee
Chair • (518) 455-4851
New York State Assembly • 836 LOB • Albany, NY 12248
January 30, 2014 — On January 21, Governor Andrew Cuomo released his 2014-15 Executive Budget Proposal, noting that the plan “increases education aid by almost 4%.” However, school aid calculations released with the Governor’s budget show a .42 percent decrease in overall state funding for Glens Falls City Schools, or a loss of $62,332 from 2013-14 to 2014-15. When building aid is removed from the calculation, Glens Falls sees a less-than-one-percent increase in state funding.
“While overall aid to schools does increase under the Governor’s proposal, that doesn’t mean a four percent increase for every school district,” explains Business Director Chris Hearley. “In fact, distribution of state aid varies so widely that many schools will see flat, or even decreased overall aid for 2014-15 under the Executive Budget Proposal.”
According to the State Education Department’s calculations, or “State Aid Runs,” as they are commonly called, Glens Falls will receive $14,895,358 in total aid for next year, a .42 percent decrease from the current year’s funding. With the building aid category removed, state funding remains basically flat, with a .70 percent year-over-year increase.
SOURCE: Compiled by the New York State Council of School Superintendents from NYS Education Department School Aid data
“Districts typically look at their calculations without building aid, since that is the largest expense-driven aid category,” says Superintendent Paul Jenkins. “We only get as much building aid as we have spent on projects and their debt during the previous year.”
Many aid categories are expense-driven, and fluctuate by relatively small amounts when viewed as part of the overall aid picture. The biggest impact on the budget comes from two specific categories, explains Mr. Jenkins—foundation aid and the Gap Elimination Adjustment.
“Foundation aid has been frozen since the 2008-09 school year,” says Mr. Jenkins. “And many school funding experts like Rick Timbs argue that the state’s formula for distributing that aid is unfair to upstate, lower-wealth districts.” Dr. Timbs shared data and stories that illustrated inequities in the current method of state aid distribution at a regional forum held in October, 2013. READ MORE ON THE FORUM HERE.
The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) has reduced school aid to Glens Falls City Schools by nearly $10.7 million since it began in 2010.The original intent of the GEA was to enable the state government to close its multi-billion dollar budget deficit. It did so by spreading the funding shortfall around to all school districts through a GEA reduction to the overall foundation aid due to schools.
Though it was intended to be temporary, the GEA has continued each year, and shows up as a $2.4 million loss for Glens Falls in the Governor’s 2014-15 budget proposal.
“Ending the GEA is one of our top advocacy priorities,” says Mr. Jenkins. “We have joined with several school districts around the region to press legislators for significant, long-term solutions to the challenges we face with school funding. Getting rid of the GEA would be a major step forward.”
Each year, the Executive Budget Proposal serves as the basis for budget discussions between the Governor, State Senate leadership, and Assembly leadership. A finalized state budget is statutorily due by April 1 each year.
This May, voters will have the opportunity to elect two community members to the Glens Falls City Schools Board of Education. If you are interested in running for the board, please pick up a board candidate nomination petition at the District Office. Petitions will be available in mid-March and are due to Clerk of the Board Amy Towers no later than Wednesday, April 30 at 5 p.m. Learn more about board member responsibilities and requirements 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.
The law's Allowable Growth Factor "2 percent" figure is actually calculated as "2 percent or the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower." Districts have been advised that the starting point for the tax levy cap calculation for the 2014-15 budget year will likely be between 1.5 and 1.6 percent—because currently, that CPI figure is less than 2 percent.
NEWS ARCHIVE 09.01.13— Homeowners must register for Basic STAR exemption by December 31, 2013
NEWS ARCHIVE 08.19.13—Contract agreements reached with teachers, administrators