Monday, January 28, 2019

Equitable aid, sustainable programs are top priority for 2019-20 school budget

On Saturday, Jan. 26, I joined my superintendent colleagues at the Capital Region BOCES for a breakfast with legislators to discuss our priorities as leaders of public school districts.

Once again, our top priority is to make sure that districts receive adequate and equitable state aid to help sustain valuable programs and services and make it possible for schools to meet our students’ needs. We have asked that our elected officials consider the needs of students and the sustainability of school programs as they begin state budget negotiations.

As our own school budget development process gets underway, our focus remains the ability to preserve valuable programs and services for students in a fiscally responsible manner. This will be especially challenging minus adequate state funding, and working within the confines of the state’s tax cap.

Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented a state budget proposal that includes a $956 million school aid increase for 2019-20. Under his proposal, overall school aid would total $27.7 billion, which represents a statewide increase of 3.6 percent.

For Watervliet, the governor's proposal would result in a 1.2 percent increase, or $151,731 more, in Foundation Aid than what we received in the 2018-19 budget cycle.

The bulk of the state aid increase is in two major categories: $338 million in additional Foundation Aid, which is the primary source of funding for everyday school operations, and $619.7 million to reimburse districts for designated expenses such as transportation, construction and BOCES services.

When factoring in those expense-driven and other aid categories, Watervliet would receive a total increase in aid of $487,345, or 2.5 percent.

Also under the governor’s plan, the state’s Property Tax Cap law would become permanent. Adopted in 2011, the law limits growth of local property taxes, including those for local school districts, to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Final tax levy limits for school district are also subject to a number of variables. For Watervliet, every 1 percent over the allowable limit would equal approximately $69,000.

The executive budget proposal is the formal beginning of budget negotiations between the governor and the New York State Legislature, with a final state budget due on or before April 1. The Board of Education will then adopt the proposed 2019-20 school budget on Thursday, April 18. The public will vote on the school budget Tuesday, May 21.

In the meantime, we have scheduled three budget workshops for the following dates:

  • Thursday, March 14: Board of Education meeting, 6:00 p.m., WJSHS administrative conference room
  • Tuesday, April 9: PTA meeting, 6:30 p.m., WES cafeteria
  • Saturday, April 13: Budget Breakfast, 9:00 a.m., WJSHS administrative conference room

Parents, teachers, staff, students and community members are invited to attend any or all of these workshops to learn more about the proposed school budget and share your thoughts during the budget development process.

Stay tuned for more information on our proposed 2019-20 school budget in the coming weeks.