The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District held the first of three community budget forums on Thursday, Feb. 9, at the O’Rourke Middle School, as the district embarks on the journey to close a $2.2 million budget gap.
Superintendant Jim Schultz took questions from the audience and allowed public comment to anybody who wanted the opportunity. An audience ofabout 50 watched via an online feed and about 70 turned out in person. According to Schultz, about a third of the audience consisted of students in the district.
A total of eight strategies were listed on the district’s website, but by meeting time, that number went to nine after an afternoon meeting, according to Schultz. Among the strategies were achieving greater operating efficiencies, finding mandate relief, using retirement savings and staffing/program reductions.
This year’s budget was $57 million. The district is projecting about $55 million in revenue next year, including $2 million of fund balance use and the governor’s state aid increase of $938,000 (including $586,000 inbuilding aid).
While staff salaries account for a 1.1 percent increase in the budget, Schultz said that 83 teacher’s salaries remained the same this year. Whether there would be retroactive increases to those teachers once a budget is balanced remains to be seen. Those 83 positions account for about a third ofthe total faculty for the district.
BH-BL still has $1 million in reserves, which Schultz said is indicative of good past planning.
“We want to maintain the level of stability we’ve had. Historically, we’ve looked at funding from the state (and gone from there),” Schultz said.
One of the largest contributing factors to the cost increase ofthe preliminary budget is staff benefits, namely mandatory pensionc ontributions and health insurance. The increase is pegged at $1.2 million, a 10 percent change. Other areas that are contributing to the increase are debt service, staff salaries, BOCES services and maintenance and utilities.Together, these five areas account for 99 percent of the total $2.2 million preliminary budget increase.