Nisky tackles school budget concerns

Forum informs residents, survey results addressed

Niskayuna Central School District is considered one of the more wealthy districts locally, but district officials aren't glossing over budget concerns in the face of a difficult economy and possible tax cap.

"If the tax cap were to come into place, this district would face some fairly substantial reductions in services and reduction in budget," said Superintendent of Schools Kevin Baughman at a Monday, Jan. 24, budget forum. "If a district wanted to override the tax cap they would need more than the 50 percent majority [as voted on by taxpayers]."

The real budget outlook for Niskayuna schools, along with all state public school districts, will become clearer once Gov. Andrew Cuomo releases his proposed budget, but Niskayuna school officials are already bracing for the worst and tackling the problem of paying mandated costs while maintaining quality education. If the governor imposes a 2 percent tax cap, the district would only be able to cover the increases in pension costs and health care, said Baughman.

In the coming months, the Board of Education will put together a budget for district taxpayers to vote on, and Baughman said it is not going to be an easy task.

"The Board of Education has some real challenges to face," said Baughman. "We are facing rising pensions and benefits costs. The school district doesn't have control over pension rates or who is in which pension."

The district's portion of a teacher's pension contribution is rising from 8.6 percent of their payroll to 11.5 percent. Baughman said the increase might not seem significant, but the roughly 3 percent increase will equal around $825,000 for the district. For employee pension contributions other than teachers, the district is looking at an increase from 11.6 percent to 16.4 percent. Health insurance is expected to go up 4.5 percent, which equals around $400,000.

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