It’s school budget time again, and the news from the Schenectady City School District is the same as last year: bad.
The district is projecting a $10 million budget gap, Superintendent Laurence Spring said, but with a total budget of $192 million, there’s no reason to panic — $10 million can be cut from somewhere.
“But I don’t think any of the places it could come from are easy choices,” he said.
By the numbers
A look at budget figures for the Schenectady City School District
Health insurance: 8 percent increase
Teacher retirement: 1.5 percent increase
Employee retirement: 0.8 percent increase
BOCES, facilities, special education, transportation and debt service: 2 percent to 8 percent increase
Total for all expenses: $6.8 million increase
Revenue: $3.4 million decrease
Total budget gap: $10.2 million
Source: Schenectady City School District
The district will have to cut programs that “have stood the test of time,” he said.
“Some things may have to be eliminated completely. Some things may have to be reduced,” he said.
School officials say they want to spread the pain equally, but they are also evaluating programs for their effectiveness, he said. He’s also hoping the gap turns out to be smaller than he’s predicting now.
“We begin with some conservative estimates,” he said, noting the district doesn’t yet know exactly how much it will pay for health insurance, among other uncertainties.
“Our biggest variable is state aid,” he added.
The district is assuming a 2 percent increase, but even if the district were to get a 10 percent increase, it wouldn’t fill the gap. Ten percent would amount to a $6 million to $7 million increase, Spring said.
He wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to vastly increase Schenectady’s aid, based on the state aid formula, which calls for the district to get $62 million more than it gets now.
“He really should be thinking of increasing aid to Schenectady by 20 percent a year for the next three years,” Spring said.
The district has no savings left to fill the gap and no hope of getting its refunded transportation aid in time for the 2014-15 budget, Spring said. The $3.8 million in transportation aid will be returned to the district in seven to 10 years, Spring said.
State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, fought hard to get that aid returned to Schenectady after it was taken away because the district made a small technical error. Governors vetoed the refund bill repeatedly before Cuomo finally signed it last year, but the district must wait in line behind many other districts that are owed refunds.
Spring has some hope for savings in health insurance. He said the district’s insurance consultants are considering a Canadian prescription drug plan, which is much cheaper, as well as looking at other ways to save.
“Health insurance is definitely an area where we said we need to look at reducing our expenses,” he said.