During a short presentation at last night's Sachem Board of Education meeting, Associate Superintendent Bruce Singer released a first draft of the proposed 2013-14 academic year operating budget. The proposed budget breaks the $300 million mark at $305,141,296, an increase by almost 5 percent from $291,358,344.
Singer attributed the hike to a combination of decreased state aid, lost revenue, and a particularly large jump in payment to the Teachers Retirement System.
"This is going to take many more meetings," Singer said. "The loss of state aid, the loss of reserves and the increase in pensions: it's all hitting us this year."
The budget options for Sachem residents range from full adoption, to tax cap adoption, to no adoption. The tax cap adoption would lead to a budget shortfall of $16.5m, and could possibly lead to a cut in services. Without a tax levy increase at all, the shortfall would grow to $22m.
Some of the programs on the potential chopping block include:
- Full Day Kindergarten $3m Savings
- Interscholastic Athletics $2.7m Savings
- NYS minimum Music program $1.35m Savings
- All Co-Curricular Programs $600,000 Savings
- Gate Program $300,000 Savings
- Transportation Cuts $6m Savings
After these cuts, according to the current proposal, the district would still need to cut $2.5m worth of fat from the budget. Without enforcing the tax levy cap, district residents would see a 13.91% increase in taxes next year, but in order to pass such a budget there would need to be a 60% approval ratio at the polls. If the budget falls within the tax cap limits, district residents would see a 3.47% increase in taxes, but could see drastic cuts in services.
Listed in the presentation were some of the key expenditure increases from this year to next, including a 5.65m increase in the pension system payout, a $5m increase in salaries and a 2.72m increase in healthcare payouts.
According to Board Member Michael Isernia, the only increase in expenditures that can be controlled by the board is in the salary category.
"I think we owe it to the community to discuss salaries like we've done in the past," Isernia said.
Meanwhile, the proposal listed some options to help the district increase its revenue stream aside from taxes. These options include:
- The sale of the district's building at 245 Union Avenue
- Increase in Field Usage Fees
- Increase in Food Service Fees
- Increase in Child Care Fees
Both Singer and the board members did point out, however, that selling 245 Union Avenue would take some time and would likely not help the 2013-14 budget shortfall.
Board Member Douglas Duncan suggested possibly consolidating the varsity sports program, so that there is just one Varsity team for each sport, as opposed to the East/North programs currently in use. Duncan also asked the board to look into the cost-benefit of possibly closing and consolidating one or more elementary school buildings.
Singer stated he would return to the board with some solid numbers under those considerations. Further budget discussions are slated for the next general meeting in January.