North Syracuse BOE addresses governor’s budget

— To understand how a school district operates, it’s imperative to know about fund balance and budgeting.

That was one of several messages Monday evening, Feb. 6, during a presentation by Donald Keegan, assistant superintendent for management, to the North Syracuse Board of Education.

“In order for us to understand the financial condition of the district, we really have to start with understanding fund balance,” Keegan said.

Fund balance, in simpler terms, is a district’s “rainy day fund,” which is used for surprises or issues that arise during the year, he said. The money is accumulated when the entire budget is not spent.

Often, if the balance is great enough, schools will choose to use a portion of the fund balance to offset the next year’s budget and lessen the burden on taxpayers.

According to Keegan, in connection with approving the 2011-12 North Syracuse Central School District budget, it was decided to appropriate $1.6 million of fund balance to support the budget. As of June 30, 2011, the district had approximately $3.8 million in fund balance, or 2.8 percent of the district’s budget.

New York schools are allowed to keep 4 percent of their budgets in fund balance.

“When we do our annual budget and the taxpayers approve that ... that includes all the money we’re going to spend in a 12-month period,” Keegan said.

Keegan said the district is on track to end the 2011-12 school year with $3.6 million, or 2.5 percent of the budget, in fund balance and anticipates a positive variance of $400,000 to contribute to the balance.

“The ability to generate fund balance is less and less,” Keegan said.

As the district works away in the background on the 2012-13 budget, several things are at play — particularly Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget and how it affects public education.

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