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March 23, 2017

School Budget Update

Preliminary 2017-18 school budget presented

At the March 20 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. presented an initial budget for the 2017-18 school year. This plan continues all current student programs and services and includes the potential for modest staffing increases to meet some areas of need.

In the budget presented, total spending is $81.9 million, which is an increase of 1.83 percent from the current year.

The figures are preliminary at this time. With the state budget process ongoing in Albany, the amount of revenue the district will have next year is not yet decided.

At the Board meeting, Dr. Tangorra emphasized that state aid for Niskayuna has still not returned to the level it was at in 2010-11. Under the Governor's budget proposal, the amount of outstanding Foundation Aid owed to our district is about $4.4 million. District officials supports proposals to finally phase-in the full amount of Foundation Aid for schools.

The district's other major source of revenue is the local tax levy. Dr. Tangorra said he is factoring an increase of 2.08 percent into our planning for next year. This is our calculated limit under the state's tax cap law.

With a tax levy increase at this level and state aid based on the Governor's budget proposal, available revenue for the district is about $650,000 less than preliminary expenditures.

As the budget development process continues, Dr. Tangorra said that the district will need to make up this amount in some way - likely through a combination of increased state aid and a reduction in planned expenses. He said there is not a scenario in which I anticipate eliminating current staff, student programs or services.

The preliminary budget additions are modest. They include: two elementary classroom teachers and associated special subject staffing to continue implementing the flex zone plan to balance class sizes; a slight increase in elementary teaching assistant staff to further the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) initiative; a total of 2.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching positions at Van Antwerp to manage middle school class sizes; and 0.35 FTE in high school teaching staff based on student course requests.

"At this year's program presentations to the Board of Education, principals and department leaders did an excellent job identifying budget additions required to meet current student needs and advance our program," Dr. Tangorra wrote in an e-mail to staff. "Due to the revenue situation, it's clear that making all of the priority investments that were identified will be a multi-year process. The good news is that our program and ongoing strategic initiatives remain intact. We're moving forward."

Officials are refining the 2017-18 budget this week for the Board meeting next Tuesday, March 28. The budget development calendar calls for the adoption of the budget on April 11, in advance of the May vote.