Is Everyone in the Same Boat?

In the past twenty four hours I’ve read articles about Orchard Park, Brocton, Olean, and Allegany-Limestone school districts and their reactions to the Governor’s proposal for education funding in the 2009-2010 school year.

As I’ve written about on this blog, planned for in meetings at the administrative and BOE levels over the past two months, and thought about endlessly, Randolph is in the same proverbial boat. As a new superintendent, I’m paying close attention to the decisions being made by my more experienced colleagues in neighboring districts. Maybe misery loves company, but every district in NYS is facing similar challenges.

The Governor’s Proposed reduction for Randolph is $414,467. Those readers who study school finance will realize that’s not the whole picture with projections showing increases to categorical aides. Overall, what does this mean for the state aid projections for 2009-2010 as compared to this current year of 2008-2009?  With increases to aides like BOCES Aid and Transportation Aid and most other categories increasing only slightly, decreasing or our largest category of Foundation Aid holding steady, we face an overall reduction of $244,960.00 from our current budget.

Just to give readers a comparison, we would have normally looked for foundation aid to increase in 2009-2010, giving us an additional $881,561.00 for next year.  That would have obviously helped us maintain our current programs much more than a $244, 960.00 reduction will. Still, the “tightening of our belts” that I hear everyone wondering about will still be modest in comparison to many of our neighbors.

I’m sure everyone’s noticed just as I have, there aren’t any costs going down right now. The only break we’ve seemed to get is in the cost of a gallon of gas. With things as tough as they are for taxpayers right now, we’re working hard to find ways to cut costs and make sure that this reduction will minimally impact our taxpayers while we plan for smart money management for more than just next year.

Our costs to health insurance, negotiated salary increases, TRS & ERS, Social Security and Unemployment continue to increase. What can we do? Access our fund balance and make cuts to our program to a level that allows for a very modest increase to school tax that taxpayers can afford.

And the big question that’s on every one’s mind–what will we face next year if the projections are accurate and we look to another year with an estimated reduction of at least another $244,600 in 2010-2011 while costs continue to go up?

Once again, I’m grateful for the conservative approach to fiscal management of Dave Chambers, Business Official, our previous superintendents, and this Board of Education. Their smart savings and leadership should hold us through this current crisis.

Where’s my optimism? In the hope that if we weather the next three years well, we will have made it through the worst of it. And I hear optimism in the words of my Board and business official who keep saying, “until we see the final numbers, we just won’t know.”

Until then, we’ll plan the best that we can.


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