Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs school budget keeps spending level

City school district officials are projecting a 2011-12 budget that has no increase in spending and

City school district officials are projecting a 2011-12 budget that has no increase in spending and no increase in the tax levy.

The district is doing this without any major staff cuts or reducing educational or sports programs, said Superintendent Janice White on Wednesday.

“We have really kept our budget relatively flat for the last four years,” White said.

District residents saw a 2.5 percent tax rate increase this year but no tax rate increase in the two years before that.

The current tax rate in the city of Saratoga Springs is $13.91 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, in Wilton $11.33 per $1,000 and in Greenfield $11.47 per $1,000. If all goes as planned, these will be the tax rates in the 2011-12 school year as well, according to district officials.

District residents will vote on the proposed budget on May 17.

Kurt Jaeger, assistant superintendent for business, said $7.9 million of the district’s $11 million in budget surplus money will be used to help balance the new budget.

Two other factors are also instrumental in reducing the size of the proposed 2011-12 budget from $110.1 million two weeks ago to the $108.5 million budget unveiled this week.

Jaeger said $1.6 million in federal Education Jobs money had originally been included in the first budget draft, increasing the spending plan. After consulting with state Education Department officials, the district was able to remove this money from the general fund budget and place it in a special aid fund like a grant.

The other factor is that the cost for health insurance the district purchases through a consortium coordinated by the regional Board of Cooperative Education Services is around $337,000 lower than anticipated.

District officials are currently projecting that the 2011-12 tax levy will remain the same as this year’s levy, $70.8 million.

The city school district is facing a $2.4 million reduction in state aid in 2011-12.

The district does plan to eliminate two teaching positions and two support staff positions through retirements and attrition. Over the past two years the district has reduced its teaching and support staff by 47 positions through retirements and resignations, Jaeger said.

White said that over the past decade, student enrollment, which is about 6,800 at present, has dropped about 200 students. Some of the job eliminations have come because of this drop.

“We see that it’s going to be a challenging road in the future,” White said about anticipated continued state aid reductions in the 2012-13 school year.

The district is also planning a bus purchase proposition that will be on the May 17 ballot. The district wants to buy six 66-passenger buses, one 29-passenger bus and a Suburban van for a total cost of $737,160. The district would receive 49 percent of this cost in state aid.

The transportation proposition will be completed at the Board of Education’s March 22 meeting at Saratoga Springs High School on West Avenue. The board will then finalize the preliminary 2011-12 budget at the March 29 workshop meeting at the high school.

The final 2011-12 budget is expected to be adopted by the board at its April 12 meeting at Greenfield Elementary School.

Jaeger said individual tax rate projections for the city of Saratoga Springs and parts of five towns in the enlarged city school district will be included in the final budget.

District officials consult with assessors in the towns and city to get a picture of how property assessments will look later this year. Jaeger said he is hoping that the total assessed value of the various municipalities will remain the same or increase when the assessment figures become final this summer.

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