As they unveiled their draft 2014-15 budget on Monday Feb. 24, local public school officials urged local citizens to lobby legislators for more state aid and fewer mandates.
Warrensburg Central School District’s preliminary $19.7 million budget, which represents a $2.98 percent tax levy increase, allocates hundreds of thousands of dollars more for health care and staff pension costs — but maintains programs and avoids faculty and staff layoffs.
“This budget just keeps in place what we have, while meeting contractual obligations,” Warrensburg Superintendent of School John Goralski said.
The spending plan, which calls for $570,660 more in expenditures than the present year, allocates $800,000 in fund balance to meet projected expenses — so the tax levy will comply with the state’s so-called 2 percent tax cap.
Goralski and WCS business manager Cynthia Turcotte presented the budget to a sparse audience of about a dozen local citizens attending a forum. The event was intended to both obtain public input on the school district’s financial issues and to identify priorities for academic and extracurricular programs.
Several citizens asked questions about state aid as well as the effect on taxes of the local Price Chopper plaza opening later this year. Those speaking sounded sympathetic to the school administrators financial concerns.
Turcotte noted that according to estimates, total state aid was increasing from $9.7 million in 2013-14 to $10.1 million for 2014-15, or a $414,513 increase. She said that after subtracting building renovations aid, the additional aid was actually only about $140,000 — not anywhere enough to offset increases in employee health care costs and pension plan contributions, as well as other escalating costs.
Goralski summarized the administrators’ plight.
“The bad news is expenses outpace revenues,” he said, noting that about $243,000 more would have to be raised in 2014-15 through the local tax levy. “The state keeps making new program requirements without allocating the money for us to meet their mandates.”