Rockland County School Boards Association (RCSBA) Executive Director Bryan Burrell said Saturday’s Legislative Breakfast at Rockland BOCES brought together representatives of all the county’s school districts and legislative officials from Rockland and neighboring counties. The status of school finances was the topic of the meeting attended by more than 100 people.
During the presentation entitled, "Insolvency Numbers and Children," Burrell said worsening finances would affect all school districts in the near future, some sooner than others.
“It hits everybody,” said Burrell on Monday. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Burrell said 88 percent of what district are allowed to raise under the state’s two percent property tax cap goes immediately to pay pension and other mandated costs. He noted expenses are rising. The average teacher’s salary in Rockland is $100,000 plus another $25,000 for benefits.
He said Rockland has 42,754 school children. There are 2,783 kindergarten students, 17,130 elementary age school students and 22,143 sixth through 12th grade students.
North Rockland School Board Member Debbie Gatti said rising costs threaten to end the type of education children now receive in New York.
“Change must come for education to survive as we know it,” she said.
Gatti said at risk programs are music, art, sports, busing and after school programs along with the possibility of class sizes increasing up to 32 students. She told legislators the school officials were looking to them to find funding and keep school district intact.
South Orangetown School Superintendent Dr. Ken Mitchell delivered a presentation on the issue of educational insolvency. Mitchell said 40 to 60 school districts in New York of a total of 714 anticipate fiscal insolvency in 24 months or less. He showed a slide, Continuum of Educational Insolvency with six stages:
- Educational & Fiscal Insolvency
- Erosion of Capacity
- Tipping Point
- Concealed Insolvency
- Educational Insolvency
- Fiscal Insolvency
He explained educational & fiscal insolvency as when expenditures outpace revenues and erosion of capacity as the reduction in the number of courses offered and class size increases. Mitchell described tipping point as the time when class sizes are affected in all schools in a district and fewer counselors and higher-level courses are available.
He said concealed insolvency occurs when only a basic education is provided and that is followed by educational insolvency marked by when test scores plummet. The final stage, Mitchell said, is fiscal insolvency when district close down because they cannot pay their bills.
Mitchell predicted,” You’re going to see a lot more consolidation. Programs being eliminated.”