State aid restoration does little to reduce Watervliet school budget shortfall
Difficult choices remain as school officials work to complete proposed 2012-13 budget
March 30, 2012
Despite the restoration of some school aid
in New York’s recent state budget agreement, Watervliet City School
District officials must still confront difficult choices in the coming
weeks as they work to finalize the 2012-13 proposed school budget.
The most recent state aid figures, released late Thursday afternoon, show the district is set to receive $268,644 more in state aid next year. That represents a funding increase of $203,644 compared to the governor’s state budget proposal released in January. However, this restoration of aid is not nearly enough to offset the over $1 million budget shortfall that remains as a result of increased operating costs and a significant decrease of more than $1.5 million in state aid the district endured in 2011-12.
“Unfortunately, we received considerably less state aid than we had hoped for,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lori Caplan. “Although the additional funding is certainly better than nothing, it’s the equivalent of less than three full time employees, which means together the Board of Education and the administration will need to make some very hard decisions in the next few weeks.”
Despite this restoration of aid, district officials must still close a $1.05 million shortfall, which will likely result in a reduction of approximately 14 staff positions, down slightly from the 17 positions originally being considered for elimination.
Impact of new tax levy “cap”
The added challenge this year for Watervliet and many other school districts across the state has been to develop spending plans for next year while remaining within the state’s new property tax levy cap.
Based on an eight-step formula provided by the state, district officials have calculated a tax levy cap of 2.69 percent for the 2012-13 school year. Learn more about the new property tax levy limit
Watervliet hosted a series of forums in March to share information with the community about the budget development process and gather feedback.
“We consistently heard from parents and community members who attended our budget forums that they’re concerned about what these types of cuts will mean for students,” Caplan said. “At the same time, residents are concerned about their own expenses, given the continued economic uncertainty.”
To maintain the same level of programs and staffing from this year to next would require a 9.87 percent tax levy increase, district officials estimate, however, they have no plans to try and override the tax levy cap.
“It is an especially difficult balancing act
for high needs school districts like ours,” Caplan said. “We have to
present a reasonable and responsible budget that is true to our mission
of educating every student, every day without overburdening our