Board Addresses Questions on Recommended Budget

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Thursday January 18, 2018

The school board and district administration have been hard at work on the development of the FY 2019 budget since the fall and with final figures regarding the Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) and number of equalized pupils received from the state, the January 3 meeting revealed a proposed tax increase of 1.74 percent. While this figure had not changed at the board’s special meeting January 10, frequently asked questions from members of the community have begun to accumulate and Superintendent David Young began the process of fielding those queries.

While the components that factor into determining the tax rate in any given year are fivefold, one of the most confounding pieces, year after year, is the equalized pupil figure and how it is determined by the state. This singular factor, along with the yield and CLA are set by the state, while district factors that impact the tax rate include proposed expenditures and estimated revenues (up by 0.68 percent and .04 percent respectively). This year, the district has seen a jump from 2,416 equalized pupils to 2,512. Young provided a detailed response for those who like to delve deep into the numbers, but essentially, each fall, the district reports its enrollment of resident pupils to the State Agency of Education (AOE). The AOE applies various weights to the categories of students such as, PreK students, ELL (English Language Learners), or students deemed to be living in poverty. These are all weighted differently. The state then adds all of the weighted students across the state and divides those students by the weighted students to arrive at an “equalization ratio.”

As Young explained, “Ed spending per equalized pupil is used to set tax rates for each of the districts in the state. This version of per pupil costs divides ‘net’ education spending by the number of equalized pupils in a district, which is a statistic for resident pupils - incoming tuition students are not counted - with various ‘weights’ applied to recognize intensity of need of students.”

Additional questions revolved around the proposed $950,500 bond, especially given some of the master planning and visioning work currently underway to evaluate structural and mechanical needs at the middle and high school. Young says he keeps these concerns forefront and is therefore only proposing upgrades that would be necessary regardless of the results of long term planning for the future of current facilities.

The bond would cover the cost of public and team restrooms, an athletic trainer area, and an equipment storage building at Munson Field at a cost of $375,000, $150,000 to purchase a portion of the new furnishings necessary for the high school library after the city’s move to a new location, along with some safety, security, and ongoing repairs at Orchard and Central Schools. New lighting for energy savings as well as new flooring to replace worn tile would also be included. The total for these projects would be $425,000.

According to Young, projects that did not fall into these categories have been delayed, save for a few stewardship items such as pavement repairs that have been moved into the operating budget as they likely would not meet the useful life required for bond financing. All items in the bond have at least a 20-year life span, the result being that costs are spread out more evenly over the years rather than having the taxpayers of today foot the entire bill.

To recap, the proposed FY 2019 budget would have a tax increase of 1.74 percent over FY 2018. This is primarily due to the state set property yield and CLA given the proposed district budget increase is only 0.68 percent or $312,500. This would result in an additional $64 annually for the average condo ($231,356) owner and $92 on the average home ($336,110) prior to income sensitivity; the percentage of savings for which is set to decline from 2.72 percent to 2.52 percent.

For more information on the budget, you can go to RETN or the district website www.sbschools.net.

 

SOURCE; Corey Burdick, Correspondent