The discussed the district administration's preliminary budget plan Tuesday night at its work session meeting, stressing that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed property tax cap would have a negative impact on the school district.
While the district begins to formulate its budget for the 2011-2012 school year, it does so without knowing how much state aid it will receive and if the governor’s 2 percent tax cap proposal will be law. Cuomo is expected to release his new budget next month.
Superintendent of Schools Anthony Annunziato said the proposed tax cap would be crippling to public schools, including Bayport-Blue Point. “I don’t know if we can get down to 2 percent,” Annunziato said to the board and community members. “I don’t think we can.”
With the new cap, Annunziato said the district could be broke in just a few years. “Over the next four to five years, the district could find it cannot meet its educational or fiduciary obligations, as it runs though fund balances and reserves,” he said.
In the past, the last three budgets averaged increases of 2.1 percent or $1.5 million raised. The 2 percent cap will only allow for a max increase of $800,000 or a 1.2 budget increase.
So far, the district knows it will be losing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, which account for $625,000 of revenue, and Section 611 funds for special education, which account for $250,000. It will receive $515,000 from Federal Jobs funds for one year only.
However, in order to comply with the 2 percent cap, the district must make an extra $1.1 million in reductions.
“We have to think outside the box,” Annunziato said. “We are not afraid to do that, but the challenge is to provide innovative, yet more cost-efficient programs.”
To save money, the district tried to make reductions that did not directly impact students, such as nixing the school-funded calendars. The sponsored school calendar production because members were allowed to advertise. The administration is also looking to lift unfunded mandates in time to save money.
Significant reductions were also made in terms of tuition. Instead of paying to send special needs students to other districts, they were brought back to Bayport-Blue Point and educated here with new programs.
James March, president of the Board of Education, acknowledged that making significant reductions is not easy task.
“We need to impress upon the community how difficult it was just to get these numbers,” he said.
In order to meet a possible 2 percent tax cap, Annunziato said nothing is off the table. The closing of a school is a possibility and so is a merge with Sayville School District.
Both March and Annunziato stressed that it is up to the community to decide what to do if the 2 percent property tax cap is passed.
Cuomo’s plan does allow for an override of the cap. A 60 percent majority must vote to override if the budget exceeds the cap. However, Annunziato said the district has not had a 60 percent majority vote in recent memory.
On Feb. 8, the district administration will present the 2011-12 budget to the board of education in two versions. One will take into account the proposed 2 percent tax levy increase, and the other will consider the 4 percent tax levy increase.
To view the 2011-12 pre-budget power point presentation, please check out the Bayport-Blue Point School District Board of Education website.