Most of the 3.15 percent increase is non-discretionary. The largest increase is in the area of fringe benefits for pension and health care for next year and is $651,000 (71 percent of the total increase). Most of this is a state-controlled pension contribution increase. Increases in the rest of the budget total $267,000 (29 percent of the total increase) include $45,000 for a property tax refund settlement and $25,000 for the replacement of a 23-year-old maintenance vehicle. Debt service went down by $11,000. Our instructional spending increase is less than $180,000. These monies went to salary increases of 1.5 percent (a low number when compared to most districts) and for increases in staff development and for additional BOCES data services that we need to be compliant with new state requirements. No programs were cut and some savings were realized through retirements and realignments.
Looking into the future, with property tax levy caps of 2 percent, our projected spending increases on a budget-wide basis would range from 0.66 to 1.71 percent for the next four years. Historically pension, healthcare, fuel and other expenditures have risen by more than these percentages. Complicating matters is the fact that our general fund reserves will be drawn down to $45,000 after this year, a level that eliminates our ability to pay for any significant one-time costs or surprises that may occur in the future.
Skaneateles is known for excellent academic results and strong programs in music, drama, art, enrichment, athletics and special education. Our primary goal will be to keep such programs available for our students. We believe our opportunity to live within our property tax levy caps will come from evaluating every line item and taking advantage of economies that will come from declining enrollment. We will have to look at such things as the reduction of administrative overhead, facility closure, the amount of sections in the primary grades, the configuration of electives, shared services among other neighboring school districts and our BOCES campus, distance and e-learning and other economies. Our job will be to work harder and create the solutions that allow for continued excellence while reducing expenditures.
The board of education has worked diligently at being more transparent. The slide presentation for the 2013-14 public budget information session is on the district website (skanschools.org). In addition, there are videos from our president and vice president that discuss this year’s budget on the website. We invite comments and questions to be directed to us at email@example.com. The annual budget vote and school board election will occur on May 21 at the Waterman School Auditorium from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Thank you for your continuing support of our schools and our students.