If you’ve picked up a newspaper lately, you’ve likely read at least an article or two on school budgeting. There’s no doubt you’ve been reading or hearing about the state of the state and our new governor’s preliminary plans for fixing the financial problems of NYS.
I’m glad Governor Cuomo is taking a hard look at State expenditures. I hope he carries through with doing what’s right which isn’t necessarily what’s popular or easy. I’m cautiously optimistic as to whether or not he’ll deliver. I want him to make the hard decisions necessary and I wish they could be based on what’s best for us as a whole, but I know that the heavy lobbying that occurs will ultimately affect what’s done.
What’s all of this mean for RCS?
A significant part of my work is budget planning, particularly at this time of the year, and good fiscal management of the district. All school districts across NYS rely upon state aide to some degree (about 65% at RCS) and face similar challenges with increasing pension, payroll and health insurance costs. I have several meetings per month with different organizations so that I stay as up to date as possible on the challenges and opportunities in education.
How are we faring as a school district? By making the hard decisions necessary, including reductions in staff where feasible over the past two years, we are in a solid financial position. We’ve reduced our health insurance costs by eliminating the more expensive health insurance policy from our negotiated contracts (a savings of $7,000 per family plan per year), we offered the State retirement incentives over the summer of which 14 employees took advantage, including three positions we didn’t replace. Where prudent, we’ve kept our special education students in district, delivering their specialized programs and services ourselves. We’ve worked hard to cut our costs, delivering a 0% increase to our taxpayers over the past 2 years, something we will work hard to do for this upcoming school year. I have every expectation that our taxpayers can count on a 0% increase to the tax levy again.
The bulk of the credit for this solid fiscal management goes to our leadership team: our business official, our building level administrators and managers and their staffs for containing costs, and our Board of Education members for advancing our responsible budgets every year. We’re doing a good job of balancing the program needs of the district with the financial constraints facing our taxpayers. We have fully funded our reserves and continue to plan five years out so that we may stay in this solid position.
I cannot predict where we’re headed with state aide or the economy. You know how that goes, depends on the day and what I’ve read last. I can tell you that good fiscal management is of paramount importance to me and to our leadership team including our BOE members. Every financial decision we make includes two major considerations: the educational needs of our students and our responsibility to our taxpayers.
Starting at tomorrow night’s BOE meeting, we will examine a section of the budget. This will continue at each meeting through April. You have my word that we will continue to work hard to keep the budget where it is now, with no increase to our taxpayers. Thank you for your continued support of the work that we do.