April 10, 2014
Marcellus Board of Education adopts 2014-15 budget proposal
The Marcellus Board of Education voted unanimously April 9 to adopt a $31,605,814 budget proposal for 2014-15 that increases spending 3.94 percent and carries a 2.37 percent property tax increase.
The fiscal plan includes no program reductions, adds several teaching positions and enriches student services and supplies. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 12, and district residents will vote on the proposal May 20.
“This spending plan includes enhancements for our instructional programming while using a measured amount of reserves to help close the budget gap and keep the local property tax levy within the district’s calculated limit,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Craig J. Tice.
Residents on May 20 also will elect two members to the Board of Education and decide on a second budget proposition, to replace four school buses at a cost of $376,247. The district is eligible to receive 76.1 percent of the cost of the vehicles in aid reimbursement from the state, according to district Business Administrator Anthony Sonnacchio.
Marcellus will pay for its expenses, which increased most in the areas of teacher retirement costs (11 percent) and BOCES services (24 percent), in part with a proposed tax levy of $17,776,775, which is an increase of $411,514 or 2.37 percent over 2013-14.
Rather than raise local property taxes above the district’s calculated tax levy limit of 2.37, district administrators and board members are proposing to use $983,336 in reserve funds – about one-fifth of the district’s fund balance – to help fill the gap between projected revenues and expenses in 2014-15.
“This use of reserves, coupled with more than $12 million in state aid, will allow the district to add instructional supplies and positions that focus on the children,” Dr. Tice said.
After months of deliberation, administrators and the Board of Education drafted a plan that:
- cuts one full-time equivalent Career Technical Education teaching position (due to declining enrollment in the subject area);
- adds a full-time, districtwide computer technician position; a 0.6 FTE limited English proficiency teacher position (that had previously been funded by grant money); a 1.0 FTE math support teacher at K.C. Heffernan Elementary School; a 0.4 FTE library media specialist at Driver Middle School, which restores the DMS librarian position to full time after a reduction two years ago); a 0.5 FTE art teacher at the high school; a 0.5 FTE Spanish teacher at the high school; a 0.4 FTE math support teacher at DMS; and a 0.5 FTE psychologist position at KCH;
- increases funding for fine art supplies and academic intervention materials districtwide; science kits and engineering curriculum at DMS; academic support software at KCH; and BOCES student support services.
“These staffing changes will allow us to continue to improve the support services available to our students, especially the additions of a psychologist and instructional support positions,” Dr. Tice said. “At the same time, the budget includes adjustments that are based on declining enrollment in some areas (business) and increased student interest in others (art and Spanish).”
April 9, 2014
Changes ahead for schools in adopted state budget
Aid restored in the recently adopted state budget might temporarily ease but not end the long-term financial challenges for public schools in New York. In 2014-15, Marcellus Central School District will regain one-fifth of the projected $1.5 million in state aid lost to the Gap Elimination Adjustment. The New York state budget also includes funding to launch new education initiatives, a rebate program for eligible taxpayers and some changes related to student data and testing.
On March 31, the Senate and Assembly passed a 2014-15 budget that reduces the GEA to $1.0367 billion in state aid withheld from schools, thereby increasing aid for everyday school operations by almost $251 million. Marcellus will see a $416,105 increase when compared to 2013-2014 budgeted figures, a 3.5 percent increase in state aid.
The funding challenges for schools are likely to increase with the inclusion of a so-called property tax freeze in the state budget. In the first year of the rebate program, a district must stay within its 2014-15 tax levy cap. In the second year, a district must stay within its 2015-16 tax levy cap and receive state approval for a shared-services/efficiency plan that achieves savings of 1 percent of the tax levy each year for three years.
If a district does so, homeowners who are eligible for the school tax relief program, or STAR, can receive a rebate check from the state after paying their school tax bills. At this time, it appears the rebate amount will be the greater of either a) the amount by which a new school tax bill exceeds the prior year school tax bill or b) the allowable levy growth factor (0.0146 for 2014-15) multiplied by the prior year school tax bill.
For example, a Marcellus resident with a home assessed for $130,000 and receiving the basic STAR exemption of $30,000 would have a school tax bill in 2013-14 of approximately $2,274. The district’s tax levy is projected to increase by 2.37 percent. For the aforementioned home, that represents an estimated tax increase of $53.89, which, under the state’s plan, would be refunded to the homeowner by the state in fall 2014. Please note that individual school tax bills and rebates in 2014-15 may vary depending on a variety of factors still to be determined.
The district is now analyzing other aspects of the state budget that may impact the local education program:
- Universal, full-day, pre-kindergarten funds – The budget allocates $300 million to supplement universal, full-day pre-kindergarten programs in New York City and $40 million for such programs in the rest of the state. Marcellus does not currently offer pre-kindergarten, so it is unlikely to benefit from this funding next year.
- Smart Schools bond referendum – The state will hold a public vote in November for permission to borrow $2 billion for school technology infrastructure, broadband or wireless connectivity, pre-kindergarten instructional space, and/or replacement of classroom trailers. Marcellus would receive $1,121,225, if that bond is approved by the voting public.
- Student testing changes – The budget includes several provisions related to state assessments:
- Individual student scores on grades 3-8 state assessments in English language arts and math:
- Can be used in required state and federal reporting.
- Cannot be placed on a student’s official transcript or in the student’s permanent record.
- Cannot be the sole basis for student promotion and placement decisions.
- The commissioner of education must create new regulations that:
- Set restrictions on the amount of time spent on testing and the number of field tests, among other things.
- Allow alternative assessment options for students with disabilities and English language learners.
- Student data privacy changes – Following are some of the budget provisions related to student data privacy:
- While parents cannot opt out of having students’ data shared with the state, the transfer of such data to InBloom or any similar provider is prohibited.
- Districts can opt out of using state data dashboards.
- The state will create a chief privacy officer position and have tougher penalties for unauthorized disclosure of data.
Visit Education Speaks to learn more about the 2014-15 state budget.
Visit the district’s budget webpage for more information about the impact of the state budget on the 2014-15 school budget proposal as it becomes available.
Copyright 2013, Capital Region BOCES School Communications Portfolio; All rights reserved. For more information or permission to use, call 518-464-3960.
Feb. 13, 2014
District officials discuss early outlook for 2014-15 budget
Marcellus Central School District officials met with the public Feb. 12, to share what they know so far about the district’s 2014-15 budget.
The community budget forum, held in the high school’s large group instruction room, featured presentations by Board of Education President Ryan Riefler, Vice President John Fuller, School Business Administrator Anthony Sonnaccio and Superintendent Craig Tice.
As Mr. Sonnacchio told board members at their Jan. 21 meeting, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his draft budget, the district now faces an estimated budget gap of approximately $1.57 million, based on anticipated revenues of $29.79 million and projected expenditures of $31.37 million.
But the district has many more tools at its disposal to pare down the deficit, Mr. Sonnachio said, such as staffing reductions through attrition, increased state aid from the NYS Senate and Assembly, additional use of district reserves, and other savings resulting from contract negotiations.
During the forum:
- Mr. Fuller discussed the budget in a historical context.Since 2008, Marcellus has had to weather not only losses in state aid, but also steep increases in retirement contribution rates, declining student enrollment and staffing reductions. Mr. Fuller stressed that during the past four years, the school district lost a total of $7,824,370 in state aid to the Gap Elimination Adjustment.
Yet, even in the face of these challenges, the district labored to limit tax increases and maintain the level of instructional programming that residents have come to expect from Marcellus schools. Marcellus Central School District once again ranks among the state’s lowest (30th out of 671 total school districts) in per-pupil spending.
- Mr. Sonnacchio, the district’s business administrator, explained what the governor’s proposed state budget means for Marcellus. The governor’s proposal calls for a modest increase in base aids of $180,566, resulting in a $1.57 million operating deficit for the next school year. To close this deficit, Mr. Sonnacchio projected what would happen if the district used reserve funds (including any fund balance from the current year) and increased local property tax revenues to the tax levy limit. While these measures would make the deficit more manageable, Mr. Sonnaccio cautioned that the reserve funds are limited and will be exhausted over time if they are continuously used to balance the budget.
- Mr. Riefler discussed future goal development and the district’s priorities from the Board of Education’s perspective. Mr. Riefler said these priorities include student safety, fiscal responsibility to taxpayers, improving academic programs while increasing student opportunities, and maintenance of the physical plant, technology infrastructure, and human capital. Mr. Riefler said the Board of Education was reaching out to the district’s state legislators, including Sen. John DeFrancisco and Assemblyman Gary Finch, to share district concerns and accomplishments.
The forum concluded with a question and answer session.
- Dr. Tice expressed his gratitude to the staff while highlighting Marcellus Central School District’s past accomplishments, current initiatives and future challenges. Dr. Tice thanked the faculty, support staff, administrators and Board of Education for their efforts to not only be transparent but also accountable: in financial matters, educational program development and review, student assessment, curriculum alignment, bench-marking district achievement against rigorous standards, professional collaboration, and the care and maintenance of the campus.
Jan. 27, 2014
Want to learn more about the GEA? Attend a forum, watch a video
Have you been hearing a lot about the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA, but are not really sure what it is and how it impacts school districts?
This video, produced by the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service, might help.
The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) law was first introduced for the 2010-11 fiscal year by then-Governor Paterson as a way to help close New York’s then $10 billion budget deficit. Under the legislation, a portion of the funding shortfall at the state level is divided among all school districts throughout the state and reflected as a reduction in school district state aid.
The GEA has left a hole in many school district budgets — including in Marcellus — in recent years. In the Executive Budget Proposal for 2014-15, which state lawmakers are currently considering, the GEA is continued. It shows up as a $1.3 million loss of aid for Marcellus.
Want to find out what you can do about it? Consider attending one of two community advocacy forums next week in Auburn and North Syracuse. The GEA will be the main focus of both events.
The forums on the GEA will feature Dr. Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium.
After the governor released his proposed budget, Dr. Timbs said: "New York school districts have collectively lost $8.4 billion in state aid since the GEA was implemented in the 2009-2010 school year. The GEA was supposed to be a temporary fix — a remedy until there was no gap in the state budget. Now that the gap is gone, it’s time to get rid of the adjustment.’’
Reminder: Any Marcellus residents interested in traveling to the Feb. 4 advocacy forum in Auburn on a district school bus should call District Clerk Kim LaRose at 673-6210. Your RSVP will assist the event coordinators, as well as those organizing bus transportation and/or district follow-up advocacy efforts.
Jan. 27, 2014
GEA remains in governor’s budget proposal
The state investment in schools would increase by $807 million or 3.8 percent next year if enacted as outlined in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget unveiled Jan. 21. The increase includes funding the governor has earmarked for the launch of several new education initiatives, including universal, full-day pre-kindergarten statewide.
Locally, the projected increase for Marcellus Central School District is $542,223, or 4.7 percent. However, only 1.5 percent of that increase is in the category of base aids.
The distinction between the two categories of base and expense-driven aid is significant, said Marcellus Business Administrator Anthony Sonnacchio.
“The base aids are permanent aid increases the district counts on from year to year to minimize increases in property taxes,” Mr. Sonnacchio said. “A 1.5 percent increase in base aids, in conjunction with the limited resources of our local taxpayers, falls short of the amount necessary to sustain the programming we currently provide for our students. We’re hopeful the Legislature will consider realigning the governor’s proposal to help offset the aid cutbacks we’ve faced since the 2009-2010 school year.”
Governor Cuomo indicated that high-quality early education is one of the best investments to be made in education, but many schools do not have the space, staffing or equipment for such a program. He proposed spending $1.5 billion over five years to phase in the program.
“The state will move as fast as districts move,” the governor said. “It becomes a government chore to develop capacity.”
In addition to universal pre-kindergarten, Gov. Cuomo also proposed a $2 billion bond for a Smart Schools initiative to go before voters in November. If approved, the bond would give schools money for infrastructure improvements related to high-speed broadband access and classroom technology (e.g., smartboards, tablets). Schools could also use the funds to construct new pre-kindergarten classrooms, if the funds allow or if they prefer. The state would distribute the funds to schools based on the existing state aid formula.
Other new education initiatives in his proposal include:
- Investing $720 million over a five-year period in afterschool programs. Districts would have to submit plans to the State Education Department for approval.
- An $8 million SUNY/CUNY full-scholarship program for the top 10 percent of high school graduates. Eligible graduates must pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math and work in New York State for five years following graduation from college.
- A $20 million Teacher Excellence Fund that would allow teachers rated as “highly effective” to be eligible to receive rewards of up to $20,000 annually.
- Officially eliminating standardized tests for students in grades K-2. Currently there are no state assessments in those grades.
Remaining in his proposal is the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), which was introduced in 2010 as a way for the state government to close its budget deficit. It did so by spreading the funding shortfall around to all school districts through a GEA reduction to the overall Foundation Aid due to schools. Despite New York’s anticipated surplus, the governor’s proposal calls for only a partial restoration ($323 million) of funds withheld from districts through the GEA.
Marcellus has lost $7.8 million to the GEA in the last four years.
“Over the past four to five years, we have endeavored to confront the reality of limited resources while striving to protect the strong educational programming our community has come to expect,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Craig J. Tice said. “It has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination.
“After Marcellus was identified as a school district in fiscal stress in both 2007 and 2008, the Board of Education mitigated the loss in state aid attributable to the GEA with the careful use of reserve funds,” Dr. Tice continued.
In fact, a recent report by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli indicated the Marcellus Central School District was not in fiscal stress and had a stress rank of 417 out of 674 (with 1 being the highest fiscal stress and 674 the least fiscal stress), Dr. Tice noted.
“In comparison, about 23 percent of the school districts in Central New York -- and 13 percent statewide – found themselves in some form of fiscal stress,” Dr. Tice said
The Executive Budget also proposes a two-year property tax freeze for homeowners residing in school districts that meet certain conditions. During the first year of the freeze, a district would have to pass a budget with a levy that stays within its property tax levy cap. During the second year, in addition to again staying within its cap, a district would have to agree to and implement a state-approved plan for shared services and consolidation.
Last year, 96 percent of school districts, including Marcellus, were able to stay within their property tax levy caps largely through reductions to programs, services and staff.
Oct. 21, 2013
The Marcellus Board of Education adopts the 2014-15 Budget Development Calendar.
** Check this page often for updated information about the 2014-15 budget. **