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South Col. budget would exceed tax cap

Savings use trimmed back while tax levy would grow 5.4 percent

— The current 2013-14 budget proposal for the South Colonie Central School District would hold expenses to a 0.74 percent increase, but hike the tax levy by 5.4 percent, a full percentage point above the district’s limit under the state tax cap.

Administrators noted the district has lost $13.7 million in state aid over the past five years. That is playing less of a role in this budget – state aid is scheduled to increase slightly from this year’s level – but the district will be cutting back dramatically on use of its savings.

After nine months of developing a 2013-14 financial plan, the Board of Education is scheduled to adopt a budget on Tuesday, April 23. The current proposal totals $92.5 million, which is a $682,000 increase from this year’s spending plan.

The proposed fund balance use is $2.4 million, a roughly $3.3 million decrease from what is in this year’s budget. Over the last four years, Superintendent Jonathan Buhner said the district was able to use the fund balance to maintain programs and reduce tax hikes. Yet with the dramatic loss of state aid, he said, the district can no longer use the same amount of fund balance.

“We’re not in a position to continue to use $5.3 million. It’s like paying your bills out of a savings account. At a certain time you can’t do that anymore,” Buhner said. “This year we’ve tried to restructure the entire district to adjust to substantially less revenue.”

While they are hoping for the restoration of $300,000 to $600,000 in state aid, Buhner said if the state aid comes in at more than expected, administrators would look at programming and controlling the levy.

“We are not planning on having our state aid restored for many years,” he said. “We’re positioning ourselves as a district as if the money isn’t coming back.”

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