The Shenendehowa Central School District recently adopted a budget of $151.5 million for the 2012-13 school year, a spending increase of 0.82 percent over last year.
Shenendehowa was contending with a $1.5 million budget gap, which was closed with several measures.
“The District has adopted a multi-year budget approach that looks at ways of reducing the cost footprint going forward and is sustainable from year to year. We were fortunate to have six administrative and 20 teaching retirements occur this year which translates to savings in salaries. We also saved $1.7 million in health insurance costs this year due to various plan design changes,” said Kathleen Wetmore, assistant superintendent for finance and operations. “In addition, we have refinanced a portion of our long-term debt and renegotiated a long-term lease through BOCES that has created additional savings. All of these strategies have resulted in a tax levy well within the tax levy limit and still maintain quality programs for our students.”
The district is more “fortunate this year than some other districts” because a lot of reductions were made over the past two years -close to 100 positions were cut, according to Kelly DeFeciani, a spokesperson for the district.
State aid to the district will not be increased this year, and is projected to be $37.5 million. Other revenue items, according to DeFeciani, amount to about $1.7 million, leaving $108.3 million to be raised by the district in property taxes.
Last year, the district raised $105.2 million in taxes.
The adopted Shenendehowa budget is below the maximum allowable tax levy limit of 3.43 percent with a tax levy hike of 2.88 percent.
“We didn’t cut any services or programs to students and we were able to (in this budget) provide two additions that will benefit students. One is the opportunity for (students to take) Mandarin Chinese. The second one is we’re going to be piloting iPads in select classrooms next year for instructional methodologies,” said DeFeciani.
A recent poll cited Mandarin Chinese as the most important world language after English in business.
The most significant challenges to the district over the last couple of years can in large part be attributed to rising costs in prescription drug plans as well as health and dental plans, which add up to $2.5 million. State mandated contributions to the employee and teacher retirement systems also add significant costs to the budget with an expected $1.1 million increase.
Contractual salaries are expected to increase by $1.1 million and transportation fuel costs are expected to go up by $124,000 next year.
Strategic reductions implemented by the district last year resulted in a cost reduction of $4.3 million. One of those changes included self-funding the district’s prescription drug program and offering a variety of less expensive Medicare Advantage programs.
Other reductions include that of six instructional positions because of shifts in enrollment. All of those positions are being eliminated through retirements.
Residents will be considering separate of the budget, a proposition to allow the purchase of 19 buses. This would cost approximately $8.9 million, 63 percent of which would be reimbursed from state transportation aid and represent a 0.17 percent tax rate increase effective in the 2013-14school year.
Two of seven seats on the Board of Education are up for election, each carrying a term of 3 years. Incumbents running for re-election are William Acker and Janet Gray. First time runners are Anthony Morelli and Robert Pressly.
The budget vote will take place on Tuesday, May 15, from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. at the Gowana Middle School Gym. Absentee ballots must be returned no later than May 15.