SCOTIA & GLENVILLE — Scotia-Glenville school officials expect at least some budget cuts this spring as they look to close a budget gap without asking district residents to raise the local levy above the district’s tax cap.
Superintendent Susan Swartz plans to return to the school board next month with more detailed plans for closing a budget gap projected to be over $500,000, while keeping the district’s tax levy increase to around 2.6 percent, the most allowed with simple majority approval in May based on district projections.
“We’ll be going through the budget line by line and perhaps see where I can make some tweaks,” Swartz said after the district’s Monday night school board meeting.
She said she would work to limit cuts that would directly affect students, suggesting savings could be found by hiring less experienced staff to replace more experienced retirees, limiting late bus runs and tightening supply budgets. But she also said the board may have to consider trade-offs such as whether they want to keep kindergarten classes at no more than 20 students or maintain various course offerings for high school students.
The district’s projected $514,000 budget gap assumes a tax levy increase of around 2.6 percent – the district’s estimated tax cap – as well as about 3 percent in increased spending to keep up with the district’s rising personnel costs. Swartz and board members expressed little hope that any increase in state aid would be enough to cover a significant portion of the district’s budget shortfall.
“I think we need to be thoughtful and strategic,” Swartz said of the impending budget cuts. “It’s not my intention to decimate anything.”
The school board reached consensus to rule out a tax levy increase above the district’s tax cap; if the board wanted to raise taxes higher than the tax cap, it would require 60 percent voter approval to pass the budget in May. Instead, board members agreed the district should keep the tax levy increase at or below the district’s ultimate tax levy limit – which as of this week is projected at 2.67 percent.
“I don’t think our community can handle more than the tax levy,” board President David Bucciferro said at the meeting. “I don’t feel comfortable that we would have a chance of passing it.”
The budget framework Swartz presented to the board Monday also counted on increasing the district’s use of fund balance by $100,000 next school year, lifting its total use of fund balance to around $3.7 million next school year. The fund balance is made up of surplus funds from previous years.
Swartz said that despite educating fewer students in the district, there’s been an increase in the need for helping students facing mental health challenges and other issues, and that has increased costs.
“Our community has changed, our demographics have changed and what happens to families raising kids in this community has changed,” she said.