The initial predictions for state aid for local school districts doesn't bode well for most taxpayers, with less than 2 percent extra aid on average for districts in Patch communities.
Patch reached out to Bayport-Blue Point Superintendent Dr. Vincent Butera for his insight on the preliminary figures.
Patch: What is your first impression of the state aid projection from the state? Worse or better than you expected?
Butera: Upon first glance, the governor’s proposed budget is actually a little better than we had expected. Prior to the release of the figures, we had been projecting a flat state aid number from last year to this year, so any increase is good news. That being said, as this bump in aid actually leaves us with nearly $370,000 less than last year’s projected and anticipated state aid increase, we are still facing several budgetary challenges. These challenges are made even greater this year when factoring in the governor’s nearly $400,000 cut in high tax aid (aid which is provided to districts where the property tax burden is relatively high compared to income – i.e., Long Island schools).
Patch: How challenging does the figure make the upcoming budget process? Is it clear that there will have to be cuts in either staff or operations, or are you hopeful the number will get bigger from the state?
Butera: Again, any increase is helpful during these challenging budget times, and this modest increase alone does not complicate the process. The main challenges that districts are facing are the significant expenditure increases associated with such things as retirement system contributions (which for BBP are expected to increase by about $1.4 million this year). These increases, coupled with the limited state funding, present planning difficulties. Working together with our elected legislators and officials, we hope to petition the state to reimburse the high tax aid cuts and continue to lobby for Long Island’s fair share of funding support. We are only in the early stages of the planning process, so it is not clear at this time what reductions will be made to any area.
Patch: How does it compare to the aid package received last year?
Butera: The proposed state aid increase is roughly $191,000, or 1.26 percent.
Patch: Does the district/BOE intend to meet the tax cap mandate this year? Can that be done with the proposed aid?
Butera: Yes, absolutely. The board of education and administration are committed to crafting a proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year within the confines of the district’s mandated tax cap.
Patch: Any other comments or thoughts you want to share with taxpayers?
We have created a five-year financial plan that sets us on the path toward sustainable financial health, a notion that is of special importance in this tax cap era. The board and administration are committed to ensuring that our resources are allocated in the most financially prudent manner and in a way that continues to ensure that we meet our number one priority: preparing our students for college and careers. While we have only just begun the process for developing next year’s budget, we are hopeful that our plan will be one that preserves the integrity of our school system and is mindful of our taxpayers. I encourage all residents to become a part of this process and join us at our board meetings scheduled in the week and months ahead. Our first budget presentation is scheduled for Jan. 30.