State education aid cuts proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo have the Northville and Broadalbin-Perth central school districts bracing residents for severe budget cuts ahead.
Both districts held forums last week to explain to residents the dire financial problems facing their districts. Both districts face huge cost increases in the form of contractually obligated salary increases, increased health insurance costs and spiking pension costs. Both districts face major state aid cuts and neither district has any real hope of making up the difference with property tax levy increases, especially if a proposed property tax cap is passed by the state Legislature.
The proposed cap, supported by Cuomo and the state Senate, would limit property tax increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.
Northville Superintendent Kathy Dougherty said her district is projecting an $820,000 spending increase for its 2011-12 school budget, of which $808,000 is mandated by the state or cost increases like salaries, health benefits and pension costs that are protected by state mandates. She said her district faces a $2 million gap when those costs are added to the money lost from taxes not paid by the Hudson River Black River Regulating District, a state entity reeling from a funding crisis, and an 8 to 11 percent state aid cut proposed by Cuomo.
Dougherty said a 1 percent increase in Northville’s property tax levy would yield only an additional $47,000 for the district.
“It’s inconceivable to try to face this kind of gap at this point,” she said.
Northville’s 2010-11 budget spends $9.3 million. It relied on a 3.9 percent tax levy increase, bringing the tax levy to $4.7 million, $3.3 million in state aid and about $900,000 from the school reserves.
Northville School Business Manager Bruce Ellsworth said he projects at the end of the year Northville will have about $700,000 remaining in its surplus, $725,000 in its debt repayment fund, $54,000 in its capital projects reserve and $45,000 in its reserve for paying unemployment benefits. The 2010-11 budget only laid off one full-time employee and two part-time employees.
Northville will likely need to cut more personnel for 2011-12.
“The savings will have to come from personnel cuts. We can’t balance this budget on reducing the amount paid for copy paper,” Dougherty said.
But in Northville only a certain amount of layoffs are permissible by its teachers union contract. Dougherty said Northville has class size limitations for every grade in its district, ranging from 25 to 30. She said if a grade level has 40 or more students it would make it mathematically impossible to have fewer than two sections and remain within the confines of the contract. She said if the 2 percent property tax cap is passed, her district will not survive, it will be forced to merge with another district or several other districts.
“It forces mergers, so we’re looking at who do we share boundaries with. We’re already in discussions with Mayfield. It could get to the ridiculous level of a countywide school system,” she said.
Broadalbin-Perth, a district plagued by chronically troubled finances, released a more detailed list of the cuts it would likely have to make to deal with a $3.2 million budget gap, including $2.3 million in state aid cuts proposed by Cuomo.
The district estimates pension obligations, health insurance increases and contractual obligations like salary increases, all of them protected by state mandates, will add $900,000 in spending increases for the district without layoffs.
To offset the increases Broadalbin-Perth is considering switching to a half-day kindergarten, allowing for three teachers to be eliminated at a savings of $150,000; the elimination of five elementary teachers for a savings of $250,000; cutting a high school math teacher to half time for a savings of $25,000; cutting a science teacher for a savings of $50,000; and reduction of one special education teacher for a savings of $50,000.
Other proposed cuts include four teacher assistants for a combined savings of $100,000; cutting one school nurse for a savings of $30,000; cutting a social worker to half time to save $25,000; cutting a Spanish teacher for a savings of $80,000; cutting a physical education teacher for a savings of $50,000; elimination of art and music on the elementary level and music lessons for the high school for a combined savings of $100,000; and elimination of the high school photography class for a savings of $15,000.
In non-personnel cuts the district is considering reducing instructional technology purchases by $30,000 and eliminating out-of-district conferences for a savings of $5,000.