$9 Million Gap In Draft 2013-2014 School Budget

Proposed $192,882,638 budget would increase the property tax levy by 4.3 percent


Clarkstown School District Assistant Superintendent for Business, Facilities and Fiscal Management John LaNave delivered an overview of the draft 2013-2014 budget of $192,882,638 at Thursday’s board of education meeting. The proposed spending plan would increase the property tax levy by 4.3 percent. It represents an increase of 6.62 percent over the current school budget of $180,931,141. 

He described it as a “straight forward rollover budget” that would maintain current programs and staff for the coming school year. However, the budget has a gap of $9 million between expenses and revenues.

LaNave explained that expenses would increase by $13 million in the proposed budget but revenues would go up only by $6.7 million. The major areas of increase are $5 million for salaries, $5.5 million for contributions to pension programs, $500,000 for FICA, $1,750,000 for health care and $250,000 for the district’s Tech Refresh program. State aid will rise by $679,000. 

“There are very few costs that we control,” said LaNave.

LaNave said that leaves a gap of $6,301,000 between increased expenses and revenue. That money could come out of the district’s unrestricted reserve fund. After the meeting, LaNave said if the entire $9 million is withdrawn, it could possibly deplete the unrestricted reserve fund. The reserve fund holds $38 million but restrictions are placed on how most of the money can be spent.

According to LaNave, every one percent increase in the tax levy equals $1.4 million.

“In the current year we appropriated about $4.7 million in order to shore up the budget,” he explained. “We didn’t have enough from revenues either from the tax base or from aid. So in the current year we appropriated $4.7 million in order to close that gap. The problem with using one time revenue for reoccurring expenses is you have to plug that hole each and every year. So then when we go into 13-14 although on the previous slide I said it was $6.3 million it is but then you have to take the hole you plugged in the previous year, $4.7 million, and add to it.”

When asked about the state imposed property tax cap of two percent, LaNave said, “The truth is the tax cap was a bad idea from the governor’s perspective.”

In order to override the tax cap, a budget can passed with just over a 50 percent majority. 

LaNave told the small group of residents at the meeting that the district tries to underspend its budget each year but noted the budget does not include discretionary items such as buses or roofs. Even if the district does not spend the $4.7 million taken out of reserves for the current year, it still has a budget gap of $5 million.

The complete draft budget will be presented to the school board on March 14. A combined community and board of education budget review is scheduled for March 18. 

LaNave showed three slides during his introduction, which were expected to be available on the district’s web site on Friday.

Ellen Mash February 08, 2013 at 02:31 PM
I agree, close the pool. The operating costs outweigh any real benefit to the community. With the rental income, I believe it still operates at a large loss. The district can lower staff with no pool and the insurance costs would be reduced. Sell the pool equipment and any other assets related to the pool to pay down the bond and cut the districts losses. My two cents......
Andromachos February 08, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Then the legislation in Albany must change. The officials that have the ability to change this destructive taxation have to change it. But, they feed from the same taxpayer funded trough, and anticipate guaranteed votes for pandering to the public sector unions. I respect teachers but public sector unions in general are abusive. They are an undemocratic, cryptocratic power structure that commands governmental regulation and spending for their own benefit in the absence of express support from the body of citizens or their representatives.
Andromachos February 08, 2013 at 02:47 PM
No it is not "always the teachers" madame victim. The problem is that when the economy was good, salary and benefit increases were easy to justify, pass and enshrine in long term contracts, and they were, Clarkstown teachers and teachers in Rockland and New York State in general, are paid very well (six figures after a few years of experience). When the economy was good, it was right to increase those things for public sector workers and everyone else. What is wrong is that now, when things are bad, and people who pay the salaries and benefits of the public sector workers can not pay the taxes, everyone must be a part of the recession, not just the private sector. When these contracts were drafted, I endorsed the idea that they should be pegged to the economy in some way, so that the public sector was not insulated from economic upturn or downturn. The private sector and the taxpayer have no such insulation. No one listened to me. They are the morons of whom I speak. Those people in the early 2000s, the predecessors I spoke of, made these generous rules and contracts which, it appears, created a baseline from which we can never retreat. That insulation is what is creating the problem.
Joe Ciardullo February 08, 2013 at 03:25 PM
Once again we are doing baseline budgeting. The budget keeps going up year after year, even if we did not spend all the money this year. Zero based budgeting needs to be implemented to see what is actually needed. Additionally, the current path we are on is UNSUSTAINABLE! What will happen when the Palisades Mall wins it's tax cert this spring? Everything needs to be put on the table and any "outside the box" thinking needs to be considered. Between Town taxes going up 7% and school taxes going up, who can afford to live in Clarkstown. These tax increases have a direct effect on the value of your home, decreasing the value.
also people....the school district has 'teachers aids" yes teachers aid who after 10 years get health andpension bennies for their families for life..yes we pay their families health insurance for a teachers aid..I know one who drives a brand new mercedes and she is an aid...unreal...she used to brags about how smart they are as they dont have to pay for health insurance...
Mike Hirsch February 08, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Yes Joe. All public sector CFO's should be required to do zero based budgeting. Ed Day is the only candidate that I know of who has promised to do just that.
stephany February 08, 2013 at 04:42 PM
there needs to be some type of formula established and applied to every tax funded contract. when a contract is agreed to, any deviation equal to [x] from the circumstances under which t was agreed to, such as the economy, changes in state aid, increased tax burden from other contracts taxpayers never approved of etc. triggers an automatic freeze for 1 year or immediate renegotiation. this works both ways. So if the economy would in be on the rise by x factor,or the state added funding, a freeze would go into effect and immediate renegotiation up would take place. of course this will never happen,they will say too many plans need to be made, but to continuously strap the taxpayer with undue burden because of a contract agreed to by some rich politician somewhere when times were not so bad is wrong and only happens in the public sector where the"company" cannot go out of business,and the next contract almost certainly will be an increase. until we can see into the future all publicly funded contracts need to be on a yearly basis capable of being frozen and renegotiated if the circumstances warrant it... like in the private sector where it is not unheard of to take a pay cut and pay for more of your benefits too, to keep the company from going out of business.
ADK February 08, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Robin, are you sure that the UNRESERVED fund balance is $38 million? That seems almost impossibly high...that would be approx 20% of the total budget...my recollection is that 3-5 % of the budget is more in keeping with history...
Robin Traum (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 04:56 PM
ADK That is the figure shared Thursday night. The reserve fund is divided into restricted and unrestricted balances.
so based on the 4.3% proposed Tax levy...in 5 years thats 21.5% higher taxes per homeowner...so if one has say a school tax of 6,000 in the fifth year due to the rate added to a higher rate becauseof the 4.3% there could possibly be a tax of close to 7,500 a year...fast forward another 5 years maybe close to 9,500 a year just for the school tax..as I have said it wont be long for homeowners to have taxes close to 20,000 a year per house..like seriously who wants to own anything that is in a town out of control...the Blizzard we are going to experience tonight is only for one night...after this we are going to experience a "monetary blizzard of epic proportions " that doesnt ever fade away..add in cop salaries raises of 13.5% every 5 years..wow..and county taxes that fund a county sinking faster then a falling meteorite..wow...we built it and they arent coming here anymore
stephany February 08, 2013 at 06:06 PM
21.5%[$7500] - not to nit pik and i am sure your realize it but it is more than that because it is 4.3% of the previous yr x5, not 5 x this increase. I think the party is coming to an end pretty soon though, mostly since it is unsustainable,and in spite of the politicians desires to grow public everthing
Andromachos February 08, 2013 at 06:06 PM
Yes, Ed Day is the only candidate that does not appear to view the taxpayer as his personal piggy bank and is willing to go on record to bring some sanity back into public budgets. The other candidates ramble on spouting platitudes on the economy and how hard they will try to fix the budgets, but propose no concrete solutions, like a change in the budgeting methodology..
ADK February 08, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Given that it was billed as an overview meeting, I would not expect significant levels of detail...however it is incumbent for there to be 100% transparency relative to the $38 million reserve fund...Unless that figure includes unspent bonded programs (in which case it probably shouldn't be included in the reserve fund) that number seems impossibly high. In order to accrue that kind of money from a year on year budget one would have to underspend by millions and millions per year for a few years...while it is equally impossible to budget and spend to the penny every year, and it is certainly feasible to underspend by a couple of million in a given year, to do so continuously could be construed as "parking" money that shouldn't have been budgeted in the first place. In fact, the state places restrictions on fund balance that i believe are in the 3-4% range or roughly $7.5MM...which would leave virtually nothing available to reduce the tax burden and still have a strong financial base. Given the significant shortfall for the proposed budget, and using the 1%=$1.4MM ratio, the tax increase to balance our budget without using fund balance would be closer to 11% a far more sobering proposition.
Maureen February 09, 2013 at 03:48 AM
The School Board should go to Gromack and ask him to give back the $1.5 million he placed on the last school tax bill to pretend that his town tax would be only 6.2%. Let Gromack dig deeper in to his own depleting reserves before playing shell games with the school tax bills. Also there has to be a decision made by the taxpayers ... whose salaries should be cut? Teachers or police? I say when we have over 50 cops who make in excess of $200 thousand per year handing out traffic tickets the politicians need to get some of that money back and hand it over to the schools before property taxes are upped again. Fiscal disaster is looming in Clarkstown. The town board is spending like crazy. It has just bonded i.e. borrowed $5 million to put a boardwalk around the lake in Congers while our schools are falling apart. Where are its priorities? There is an election coming in November. Supervisor Gromack must be removed along with Hausner and Hoehmann. They have voted unanimously on every vote to spend money and raise taxes. County Legislator Sparaco being given a $75 thousand part time job sums up everything that is wrong in Clarkstown. We need new people in office who are prepared to make difficult decisions about priorities.
Mike Hirsch February 09, 2013 at 04:59 AM
Don't count on it Maureen. The behind the scenes deal making between Gromack, Lettre, Sparaco, and Ballard is absolutely sickening. A far cry from Gromack's "politics is a noble profession" that he talked about when opposing the term limits initiative. He is the consummate voter disenfranchiser. Until He, Lettre, Sparaco, and Ballard are gone, the citizens of Clarkstown will continue to serve them and their pocketbooks.
Rob Green February 09, 2013 at 04:21 PM
We only have ourselves to blame. How many residents actually voted in the local elections? How many voted against the school budget , or board elections? We let the unions control this town and the county. They all got off their butts to vote in their best interest. Unless the rest of us wake up and throw out the union butt kissing politicians and vote in people like Ed Day to look out for us we all doomed. Even if you had enough and want to move out, you won't be able to sell your homes due to the high taxes. Who in their right mind would want to move to Rockland?
Mike Hirsch February 09, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Just for the record, Ed Day is probably the only candidate who actually was a union member and is definitely not anti-union. He is simply an upfront guy who takes orders from no one and does what he thinks is right. As such, he is a threat to the good old boy political network. They will all be allied against him come election time because he is in favor of term limits and believes that elected officials should serve the public rather than have the public serve them. I just hope the non-connected citizens come out and vote.
a question...if a kid is driving at night illegally...and gets into a accident..maybe takes out a street pole..as the street pole is of course brighter than the dimwit kid....and the kids leaves the scene ..and soon his father pulls up....then of course the police...and the father tells the officer he was the one driving...doesnt mention that his kid was the one..what IF ANY Crime was committed? and 2 is there a statue of limitations for this crime ..if of course it was committed????..and hypothetically.if it was by a person who works for a municipality..is it cause for dismissal?..again this is all"hypothetical" anyone have an answer?
Andromachos February 09, 2013 at 10:26 PM
What jumps to mind is Penal Law 240.50 Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree. A misdemeanor. If federal authorities are involved is a violation of 42 USC 1001 under which any falsehood is a felony.
Clarkstown life February 10, 2013 at 02:04 AM
please tell us you were the one who lied
yoo clarkstown no life..maybe just maybe its one of the good ole boys...and here is an interesting thing...the kid may never changed!!!!!! unless what I read in the newspapers isnt real...maybe clarkstown should make in mandatory for employee the following question"HAVE YOU EVER LIED ON A POLICE REPORT" ..ONE HAS TO WONDER HOW MANY EMPLOYEES WHOULD RAISE THEIR HANDS.and if you can read lifer i said"what if"
Mark Walker February 11, 2013 at 04:51 AM
This is not good news. It is time to make drastic cuts to the budget.
what everyone working for clowntown should do this week is as follows....go into the mercedes dealers.....BMW dealers,Audi...even Maseratti!!!! andlets not even let out the Rolls Royce dealers..I want all of you to buy at least"2" two vehicles..yeppers 2..then afterwards I would like all of "U"s to go into the city..hire a Limo...and buy a few Rolex.s.....Breitlings....Pannera's.."not the food place its a watch...then go over to say CARTIER...AND BUY SOME EXPENSIVE GEMS..ok about paying for the stuff!!relax dont worry...for those who dont have the extra cash laying around...go to a local bank and "BORROW the living daylights on your house!!!go for it!! MAX it out!! it doesnt matter if your budget "CANT AFFORD IT"just BORROW>>BORROW BORROW..all that MATTERS is GETTING THE MOST STUFF TODAY!!!!in the future your dwellings will be worth BILLIONS!! for those who will tell me I should get back to reality..my Answer is...I am only acting like what I see in clowntown....
a side bar to my last posting...if any of you have all that stuff already just ignore my posting...but any references as to how you like the stuff you own would be appreciated i am sure
ADK February 11, 2013 at 03:21 PM
sad...but true
and one more note...as you all drive in those flashy vehicles..and you see a pedestrian over 60 carrying food or walking with assistance...wearing clothes that arent the most expensive..maybe a few layers...honk your horn!!!!show them you are the chosen people!!!!laugh at them!!!!yell that your out on overtime and you get paid for 4 hours even if its a 15 minute phone call..Show them you are the boss!!!!tell them you are getting your car detailed...
point to wayne and sparaco yesterday on rt 304..west of germonds road..your incredible road crews where cleaning off the bus stops...holding up traffic for 4 minutes and ready??? the guy with the warning flags waves us thru a red light as another car was going thru on green!!!!!!!!!!luckly the car in front of me looked and saw it..because your incredible road workers didnt..and YOU DID HAVE A TALL GUY WHO WAS SUPERVISING EVERYTHING...BALLARD GO HIRE MORE PART TIMERS...was sparaco on the phone? and give your guys pictures of what colors mean on a traffic light this happened at approx 1.15 pm sunday
ADK February 11, 2013 at 03:33 PM
I'm still trying to understand how the District has amassed $38 million dollars in a reserve fund...this means that they have asked for millions more than they actually needed for years...forgetting for a moment that it is taxpayer money, and that they have an obligation to budget in good faith, and that they have an obligation to have total transparency in the budget process, and that they have no legal authority to continually ask for unencumbered money and not either spend it or return it to the public...if they had all this money, why wouldn't they fix up some of the buildings that are claimed to be in a virtual state of collapse? Remember the bond/roach/rat fiasco of a few years ago? When each and every building was in imminent danger of falling down? When ONLY a $182 MILLION bond would do? Given that state aid still pays 55% of construction costs (although we were told that was going away also) we could have used a portion of the $38 million to have the buying power of $75 million +/-...we know that $6 million was saved when the teachers union took a freeze in their most recent contract (good job by all concerned) because the budget that was voted on still had that amount for raises...
Mike Hirsch February 12, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Excellent point ADK. I agree with you. From what I understand, they amassed it over the last few years. I think John LaNave should answer that question. They should not be holding on to that much money. I say spend most of it now on the needed repairs.
Joe Ciardullo February 12, 2013 at 04:08 PM
It's baseline budgeting 101. If they "carry over" 4 milion, then that means that the budget was 4 million over. The new budget is based on the prior budget which had the "carry over". Do that for a few years and you see where the "surplus" comes from.


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