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 After the meeting, LaNave said if the entire $9 million is withdrawn, it could possibly deplete the unrestricted reserve fund.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.