Clarkstown School Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton told the board of education the increases in the proposed 2013-2014 budget mainly result from state mandated costs for pensions and health benefits plus salaries.
“We are not really going above the two percent (cap) in what our educational costs are,” said Morton at Thursday night’s budget introduction.
However, once mandated costs are factored in the proposed budget, they increase the property tax levy by 4.3 percent. Morton said the draft budget of $195,821,000 maintains staffing levels and all current programs. Almost $11 million of the overall $13 million increase from this year’s budget is attributable to costs that the district cannot control, but which are required by the state.
The mandated items that are increasing in cost are ERS (Employees Retirement System) at $704,000; TRS (Teachers Retirement System) at $4.1 million; health coverage at $848,000; salaries at $4.1 million; textbooks at $522,000 and BOCES at $524,000. Assistant Superintendent John LaNave explained the discretionary expenses the board has control over are the replacement of 12 aging schools buses for $992,000 and safety and health improvements that came out of meetings the district held with community members and the Clarkstown police.
LaNave said the security upgrades, which the principals also reviewed, would cost $1.8 million and include lighting and sidewalks and other measures discussed at prior meetings. While security guards would be on duty whenever school buildings were in use plans to raise user fees would offset that cost. Specific items and costs on the security list will be shared at Monday’s community and school board budget review. LaNave said Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan offered to speak to the school board about the safety and security items.
The addition of the safety improvements and replacement buses accounts for the $2.8 million difference between the budget of $195,821,000 presented Thursday and the initial draft spending plan of $192,882,638 shared in February.
LaNave said there is a gap between the district’s revenues and expenses, which requires the use of reserve funds. The proposed budget includes the use of $9 million in reserve funds. LaNave said the actual amount needed might be less because he expects this year’s budget of $180,931,141 will be underspent by $3 million or $4 million.