By Mark Reynolds
In the past few months school boards across the state have been compiling and tweaking their budgets for the 2023-24 school year that will be presented to the public for a vote on May 16.
Last week, Highland Business Administrator Lindsay Eidel gave her third slide presentation to the school board. She reviewed details of the Draft Revenue Budget, starting with the district receiving $18,561,269 in NYS Aid, $150,000 in Federal Aid (Medicaid); $51,169 in Payment in Lieu of Taxes, $650,000 in other revenues, tapping $1,150,000 from the fund balance and $31,914,042 collected in taxes for a total of $52,476,480, which is an increase of $3,477,899 from the present 2022-23 budget.
Eidel pointed out that the amount from BOCES is actually $4,000 less than they originally stated. The NYS Aid amount was highlighted in yellow on her slide, indicating it may be subject to change because New York State has not yet passed their budget, which is due on April 1. The Fund Balance number was brought over from the present budget and further discussion on it will take place.
Eidel pointed to the major drivers of the budget to budget increases: salaries up by $350,000; benefits also up by $1,100,000; BOCES at $900,000 (down by $4,000); utilities at $73,000; debt service, including inflation with the Capital Project, of $450,000 and the Student Resource Officer [SRO] program at $120,000 for a total of $2,993,000.
Eidel’s following slide lined up the draft budgets of 2022-23 to the estimated 2023-24 budget.
“Last year at this time, when we were going through our draft expenses, we were at a $983,293 difference and currently today we’re at a $319,571 difference; with more expense than revenue,” she said.
Superintendent Joel Freer pointed out that the district has to find a way to secure funds for this increase. He noted that the currently proposed budget includes all of the positions, “that we had brought in a few years ago under the grants and they are going to be expiring and we brought them into this budget so that we’re moving those positions forward.” He said the Administration has had discussions about keeping these positions in place, “because they are making a difference. We would love to continue on a path that we set out on when the grant money became available.” Board member Mike Bakatsias said the board understands the importance of retaining the mental health positions that have been added recently, because, “the need is there.”
Eidel broke down the bus proposition that will be proposed to the voters: one 65-passenger bus at approximately $166,096 and one 30-passenger bus at approximately $100,660 for a total of $266,756. These figures include bus safety and communication equipment.
Eidel said the board needs to decide the additional revenue needed by the Administration to determine the required budget reductions. She said the proposal is to use $1,150,000 of the Fund Balance, which is the same amount appropriated for the 2022-23 school year.
“So if it is the board’s intention to keep it the same or continue to go down with expenses being what they are going into next year’s budget, we may not be able to do this much in future budgets, but we can do it for next year’s budget if you would like to,” she said. “If that Fund Balance never goes down, then that means our deficit would go up, currently.”
Eidel said at the March 28th school board meeting there will be another budget presentation, with community input encouraged.