School Budgets: Have You Read the Paper?

If you’ve picked up a newspaper lately, you’ve likely read at least an article or two on school budgeting. There’s no doubt you’ve been reading or hearing about the state of the state and our new governor’s preliminary plans for fixing the financial problems of NYS.

I’m glad Governor Cuomo is taking a hard look at State expenditures. I hope he carries through with doing what’s right which isn’t necessarily what’s popular or easy. I’m cautiously optimistic as to whether or not he’ll deliver. I want him to make the hard decisions necessary and I wish they could be based on what’s best for us as a whole, but I know that the heavy lobbying that occurs will ultimately affect what’s done.

What’s all of this mean for RCS?

A significant part of my work is budget planning, particularly at this time of the year, and good fiscal management of the district. All school districts across NYS rely upon state aide to some degree (about 65% at RCS) and face similar challenges with increasing pension, payroll and health insurance costs. I have several meetings per month with different organizations so that I stay as up to date as possible on the challenges and opportunities in education.

How are we faring as a school district? By making the hard decisions necessary, including reductions in staff where feasible over the past two years, we are in a solid financial position. We’ve reduced our health insurance costs by eliminating the more expensive health insurance policy from our negotiated contracts (a savings of $7,000 per family plan per year), we offered the State retirement incentives over the summer of which 14 employees took advantage, including three positions we didn’t replace. Where prudent, we’ve kept our special education students in district, delivering their specialized programs and services ourselves. We’ve worked hard to cut our costs, delivering a 0% increase to our taxpayers over the past 2 years, something we will work hard to do for this upcoming school year. I have every expectation that our taxpayers can count on a 0% increase to the tax levy again.

The bulk of the credit for this solid fiscal management goes to our leadership team: our business official, our building level administrators and managers and their staffs for containing costs, and our Board of Education members for advancing our responsible budgets every year. We’re doing a good job of balancing the program needs of the district with the financial constraints facing our taxpayers. We have fully funded our reserves and continue to plan five years out so that we may stay in this solid position.

I cannot predict where we’re headed with state aide or the economy.  You know how that goes, depends on the day and what I’ve read last. I can tell you that good fiscal management is of paramount importance to me and to our leadership team including our BOE members. Every financial decision we make includes two major considerations: the educational needs of our students and our responsibility to our taxpayers.

Starting at tomorrow night’s BOE meeting, we will examine a section of the budget. This will continue at each meeting through April. You have my word that we will continue to work hard to keep the budget where it is now, with no increase to our taxpayers. Thank you for your continued support of the work that we do.

  1. Dear Student: Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, I appreciate that you took the time to first read a blog post on the budget and then to respond to it with your comments. There was a discussion about technology in the classrooms, including iPads and Smartboards, on a recent post called “Using Technology in the Classrooms” that you might find interesting. I still maintain that we have to start somewhere and our teachers can only learn to use technology to its fullest with our students if they first learn the basics, that old adage, “you’ve got to walk before you can run”. For you as a student, I want to put tools into your hands that you will use seamlessly as a college student and in the workplace, to give you that experience and that opportunity to create. If we have Smartboards in classrooms that are NEVER being used as you point out, then I hope the teachers who have them will say, “hey, I’m not really using this in my classroom—please move it to a teacher who will use it.” Your thoughts are on my agenda for an administrative meeting later today, so that we can make sure we’re using everything we’ve purchased to it’s fullest. Again, teachers need time to get there.

    You said in your comments, “Art and Music budgets are getting cut while the football team continues to receive money.” This concerns me because we haven’t cut those budgets and I wonder why it feels like we have to one of our students? I wonder if you previously had supplies or opportunities there that you no longer have and I plan to talk with our Admin team about our purchases there. . . are they adequate? We do dedicate a good portion of the instructional budget to these subjects.

    Our #1 priority is our educational program, giving you all of the opportunities we can while remaining cognizant of our responsibilities to our taxpayers. It’s one of the reasons we’re piloting two on-line courses this year, so that we can determine if this is a worthwhile and economical choice for us in the future—if it’s a good opportunity for our students. It’s also why we have focused on our teachers and their own learning, so that we can provide them with the opportunities to improve and learn from each other.

    It is a conscious effort for all of us to “balance” our budget in the way that you recommend—focusing on our educational needs and considering ALL of the many aspects of this organization. There is absolutely NO substitute or nothing more important than the quality of the teacher who stands before you. The biggest addition, the best technology, the greatest sports teams—none are as important as the quality of teaching. That’s why our focus, our vision is “learning with passion, innovation and leadership”. LEARNING for you as one of our students, nothing is more important.

    Thank you,
    Kimberly Moritz

  2. I think we do do a good job at Randolph. We are one of the best financially sound districts in the area and I think this is due to our leadership team.
    As Kim explained it is a “team” effort with our staff, and District leaders making good sound decisions through the year. I wish to thank everyone for their continued support of our mission at RCS to give our students the best education possible and to continue to fund all programs that help our students exceed to a level that isn’t just expected but is the norm at RCS.

  3. Going along with the school budget, I think it would be a good idea to cut wasteful spending that is clearly going on at our school. iPads and Smartboards? iPads that serve no real purpose other than being a novelty item to stare at and the Smartboards which some teachers never even used and the same tasks could be completed with a simple overhead projector or television screen. Not to mention the heart monitors the physical education program purchased that have never once been used. While I feel that its great that you have kept the school budget down, I feel as if even more could be done. The school budget should be lowered. I feel that it is ridiculous that my parents have to pay as much as they do for my education. I think Randolph needs to make their budget more educationally centered. While I think its great that Randolph has an excellent athletic program, school is about learning. My parents (or New York State) shouldn’t have to pay extra money in school taxes so that a group of girls can play volleyball. I believe that if students want to play on an organized sports team then they can fundraise for the money. The cheerleading team fundraises and they do very well. The budget is unequally distributed and that needs to be fixed. The first priority should be giving students a REAL education. Art and Music budgets are getting cut while the football team continues to receive money. That doesn’t seem very fair to me. Instead of pouring money into adding on to the school and remodeling, we should start giving an education that will prepare us for the real world. Spending money on math and science programs will get me a lot further in life then spending money on the football program, because I can guarantee you that nobody from Randolph will end up in the NFL. I know that I am just one of your students but I would hope that you would take my opinion seriously instead of just thinking I’m dumb or weird.

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