Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central
January 26, 2011
BH-BL residents invited to
February 9 budget forum on fiscal realities
original date of Feb. 2 changed to Feb. 9 due to
BURNT HILLS: Burnt Hills-Ballston
Lake school district residents and staff are invited to the first
of three community budget forums on Wednesday, February
9, in the O'Rourke
Middle School cafetorium, 173 Lakehill Road at 7:30
Anyone who cannot attend in person
is also invited to participate online via a
computer with high-speed internet access.
(See details below.)
Preliminary spending figures
The BH-BL Board of Education
is starting its annual budget deliberations
with a preliminary request budget of $55,560,883.
This represents the first estimate of funds needed
to carry existing programs forward one year. It
includes freezes on many expenses and no new
staffing or new programs.
figure is 4 percent higher than the current year’s budget
The district will be looking for
ways to reduce the preliminary budget over the next
several months in preparation for the public budget
vote on May 17.
"Given New York state's continuing
deficit, we expect that Governor Cuomo will
recommend cuts in state aid to schools when he
announces his budget proposals on February 1,"
explains BH-BL superintendent Jim Schultz. "Handling
a third year of aid cuts is going to be very
painful, so I hope many residents and staff will
join us on February 9 to talk about their concerns
and help the district figure out the best way to
The February 9 forum will cover:
that are causing the budget to increase,
underway to reduce costs,
• how a 2
percent tax cap could potentially impact BH-BL, and
Audience members will also have a
chance to talk about their hopes and fears as the
district enters its third year of probable program
Wednesday's budget forum will also
be broadcast live over the internet . This means
that interested persons can tune in and participate
via a computer as long as they have high-speed
internet access and speakers. No special software is
BH-BL broadcast its budget forums
online last winter, and found the process worked
quite well. "The best way to share your thoughts and
ideas with the school board will still be to come to
the forum in the middle school in person," says
Schultz. "But online access is another vehicle to
get more folks involved in the budget process."
Roughly 75 percent of the
district's budget goes to pay for staff salaries and
benefits, so this is annually the area of greatest
increase. The preliminary budget shows salaries
could increase overall by 3.6 percent or $1,034,143,
while staff benefits could increase by 7.9 percent
Staff salaries and benefits
constitute 91 percent of the total increase in the
preliminary 2011-12 budget, in part because many
other sections of the budget have been frozen or
reduced over the past two years.
BH-BL has cut more than 40
full-time equivalent staff positions over the past
A primary reason why benefit costs
are increasing is that state law requires towns,
counties and school districts to contribute a
different percentage of employees' salaries toward
their pensions each year -- a percentage that is
increasing significantly during 2011-12.
"Historically, the required pension contribution
rate has been as low as one percent," says assistant
superintendent Jacqueline St. Onge, "but it has
increased dramatically in each of the past several
years based on how poorly Wall Street and the
financial markets are doing. The state determines
these rates, not the school district."
St. Onge has budgeted required
2011-12 pension contributions at 9 percent of
teachers' and administrators' salaries and 15 per
cent of support staff salaries.
three forums in the budget process
As soon as Gov. Cuomo's proposals
are announced on Feb. 1, Schultz and St. Onge will
be working with other administrators and board
members to analyze how the proposals could impact
BH-BL and what ideas the school board will want to
lobby legislators for or against.
The month of February will focus on
fleshing out ideas for the best ways to cut costs
and still maintain the district's educational
strengths. A second budget forum has been scheduled
for March 3 to review progress with
the community, and a third one for March 29 when the school
budget should be nearly complete.
Schultz expects to have a draft
list of possible budget cuts to share with the
public by the March 3 forum. Work to develop the
district budget needs to be complete by early April.