Despite miniscule anticipated help from Albany, Warwick Valley School District’s proposed budget is expected to be below the tax cap

Despite miniscule anticipated help from Albany, Warwick Valley School District’s proposed budget is expected to be below the tax cap

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By Abby Wolf

— The Warwick Valley School District offered residents another look at its proposed budget for the upcoming school year, at a work session on Monday night. April 8.

The district’s proposed budget is $95,089,284 for the 2019-20 school year: a projected spending increase of $2,269,535, or 2.45 percent, and a projected increase of $1,648,633, or a 2.69 percent increase to the tax levy (about $96,000 below the allowable tax cap of 2.85 percent).

Tax cap

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recently approved budget, the property tax cap is to become permanent.

“We feel fortunate to propose a plan that not only maintains the integrity of Warwick’s academic program, but also enhances it in several areas while remaining respectful of our community’s local tax burden,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach said in his presentation to the school board.

From the 2014-15 through 2017-18 school years, the Warwick Valley School District kept the tax levy increase below 2 percent, and did not increase at all in 2016-17.

RevenueWarwick Valley schools receive the bulk of its revenue – some 66 percent – from property taxes. Albany provides the district about 27 percent of its funding in the form of state aid; a combination of non-tax sources, such as tuition-paying students and real estate rental income from district properties provide the rest of the district’s revenue, at around 4 percent, as well as appropriated fund balance, at 2.18 percent; and the library bond tax, at 0.45 percent, make up the remainder.

The district expects to take in $3,715,000 in revenue from non-tax sources (i.e., income on the former school buildings it rents out) – an increases of $272,638 over the current year.

NY State offers minimal aid in governor’s final budgetWarwick Valley is the lowest recipient of state aid in the region, because of the wealth index. Warwick is considered a relatively affluent area, so it receives less financial aid from Albany.

The district will receive $529,0677 from New York State in the coming year, versus the current school year, however, according to a statement from Bob Lowry and Greg Berck of the New York State Council of School Superintendents. “The actual increase in State Aid is only $23,264, budget to budget. This is because building aid is inflated due to the new capital projects that (are) currently in progress and aid for these projects will not be received in 2019-20.”

Albany has warned that there may be further reductions in aid mid-year should there be an economic downturn.

Cost savings from a number of sourcesThe good news: the district will realize savings from the following areas:

• Lowering the cost of health insurance for teachers and other staff, from 7 percent to 1.5 percent, by participating with other school districts in a regional health consortium;

• Reducing its contract transportation costs by bringing Special Education students back to their home district; doing ridership counts and consolidating runs - $150,000

• Retirement of eight teachers - $766,793

• A lower number of privately placed students;

• Reducing the cost of the Teachers’ Retirement System, from 10.63 percent to 9.5 percent – nearly $300,000;

• Bringing CTEC students back in-house from BOCES - $233,040; and

• Using staff instead of outside contractors to do certain construction and repair jobs to buildings and grounds

Unfunded mandates still an issueMany school districts are required by federal or state law to offer certain services or benefits, but are expected to come up with the resources to do so on their own. An example: the New York State Legislature passed a law mandating that employers give employees time off to vote in elections.

“This is likely an oversight on the part of the governor and legislature,” Leach said, adding that for public schools, that would mean “child care issues, training (issues) and loss of instructional time” to fulfill this requirement.

“There will be no additional aid (for this mandate),” Leach added, so you’d have to close school half-day, or subtract time from the Superintendent’s Conference Day.

Three items for budget vote in May

There will be three proposals on the ballot for voters to consider:

• The school budget;

• Three open school board seats; and

• A proposition to buy six buses to replace vehicles in an aging fleet.

Buses will be purchased using a combination of the district’s reserves plus state transportation aid, so no additional cost will be borne by taxpayers. The district expects the total cost of the bus purchase to be $608,000.

Next• Work session: budget presentation #4, BOE adopts budget – Thursday, April 25, 7 p.m.

• Public hearing on proposed budget – May 13, 7 p.m., at the high school.

• Vote: May 21, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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