1. Work to balance the community’s desire for both excellent school programs and reasonable taxes by critically evaluating current practices, proposed expenditures, and revenue sources other than taxes.
2. Ensure that BH-BL graduates have the skills, knowledge and attitudes outlined in the district’s 21st Century Framework for Learning document, so that they can compete in a demanding and technologically sophisticated global marketplace. This will include support for innovative instructional models and programs that have proven to be effective ways to deliver services, as well as support for the professional development necessary for such innovation.
3. Find additional sustainable reductions in the district’s annual operating costs since continued reliance on the district’s fund balance is not sustainable over the long term.
4. Engage the community to share their perspectives and values on school programs they wish to support with their tax dollars.
5. Actively lobby state legislators to reform the mandates outside of school districts’ control that currently drive up costs in the areas of instruction, personnel, and construction.
New York State’s economy is slowly starting to recover, but has a long way to go. Below are some factors that will impact development of the BH-BL 2013-14 budget.
To help gauge the impact of the following factors, 1% of the BH-BL property tax levy is roughly $350,000. Hence every $350,000 in additional expense — or lost revenue — that is not ultimately balanced by new revenue or reductions elsewhere in the budget results in roughly a 1% tax levy increase. This is the rough equivalent of seven full-time staff positions.
1. In response to the recession and unprecedented loss of state aid over the past four years, the district has made significant cuts in teaching, support staff, administrative and supervisory positions.
2. The largest area of cost increase in 2013-14 will likely be staff pensions, costs over which the district has no control. The required employer contribution rate for members of the state Teachers Retirement System (TRS) is currently 11.84 percent of salaries, and is projected to grow to anywhere from 15.5 to 16.5 percent of salaries. The required employer contribution rate for members of the state Employee Retirement System (ERS) is currently 18.9 percent and is rising to 20.9 percent. The overall pension cost increase to BH-BL will be more than $1 million, depending on final rates and final staffing numbers.
3. We have been advised by the State Legislature that school districts across the state may receive an average state aid increase of 3.5 percent for 2013-14. For BH-BL this could be approximately $600,000.
4. Successful negotiations with the Teachers Association and the Administrators Association during the past year included recognition by both bargaining groups and the Board of Education that NY school districts are facing difficult financial challenges. Based on these contracts we can project that overall 2013-14 salary costs could grow by no more than 3.3 percent for teachers and by no more than 1.75 percent for administrators. However, as with every year, retirements would reduce these numbers.
5. State regulations regarding the tax levy cap and contingent budgets may change again based on a review by the state Comptroller, which will likely not be complete until January. We made progress explaining the tax levy cap last year, but need to continue work to inform residents and staff about these complex and still misunderstood regulations.
6. BH-BL is fortunate that our residents by and large support high quality school programs when balanced by reasonable taxes. The May 2012 budget proposition, which was within the district’s tax levy cap, was approved by a 71% passing rate.
7. Unlike many Suburban Council school districts, BH-BL has very little commercial development, and our tax base is 85 - 90% residential. After several years of this unprecedented bad economy, many district families are stretched financially. US Census Bureau data shows that the percent of BH-BL families with school-age children living in poverty rose from 3 percent in 2007 to 10 percent in 2010.
8. Careful control of our expenses has helped the district maintain a sound fund balance while we navigated the difficult financial path of the past four years.
9. Health insurance costs are expected to rise again. Estimates are that these could grow by 10 – 15 percent.
10. The strategy of increasing the amount of fund balance / reserve funds applied to the operating budget each year is not sustainable.
11. BH-BL has been able to lock in competitive rates for electricity and natural gas by participating in multi-year, multi-district consortium contracts with more than 140 school districts. Using funds from the 2009 referendum, we continue to cut our operating costs with renovations, including energy-conserving replacement doors, windows and roofing. As we have seen occur at our other schools, energy consumption should now decline at Charlton Heights due to installation of a new, high-efficiency heating system there in the summer of 2012.