District presents second draft of proposed 2020-21 budget; plan outlines staff reductions and other cost-saving measures in order to close gap in funding

On Tuesday, April 14, the second draft of the proposed 2020-21 South Colonie Central School District budget was presented to the Board of Education. The South Colonie administration presented a $106,799,547 million spending plan with a budget-to-budget increase over the current school year of $1,920,173 or 1.83 percent.  The proposal included a number of cost-saving measures, including reductions in positions in order to close a financial gap of $3.2 million dollars.

The second draft budget was based on an estimated tax levy of $74,000,000, an increase of 2.92 percent over the current year. This is below the district’s projected tax levy limit of 2.97 percent.

“The rising costs of running quality educational programs for all students, coupled with the uncertain fiscal condition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has certainly made creating a balanced budget more difficult,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Perry.  “Not only do districts need to navigate this challenging landscape, but they must also make some very difficult decisions while bracing for potential mid-year cuts and other reductions.”

In January, when New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented his executive budget proposal,  South Colonie Central School District was tentatively set to receive a 1.43 percent, or $234,250, foundation aid increase.  But when the final state budget was adopted in April, the proposed Foundation Aid increase had been removed in its entirety. In addition, South Colonie–like districts throughout the state, is now subject to a new “Pandemic Adjustment” state aid reduction that is, at least for now, fully offset by new federal funding. While the federal stimulus offers relief this year, it remains to be seen if and how this will be applied to state funding in future years. In addition, the district is also subject to further quarterly reductions under the enacted state budget.

A closer look at the South Colonie draft budget

Highlights in the proposed 2020-21 district budget

  • UPK Programs remain in place at the federal funding levels
    Class sizes have been maintained and equalized at the K-4 levels (average class size in 2019 is 20.1 students, average class size for 2020 is 20.2)
  • Full-day Kindergarten will continue at all elementary buildings
  • Music Department programming to continue at grade levels 5-12 . Same number of ensemble groups, lesson delivery will be impacted.
  • Continued early literacy programs (Summer Literacy Academy)
  • Continued Foreign Language programs for grades 7-12
  • Continued AP Programs at CCHS
  • Continued upper level Science, Mathematics and Project Lead the Way (Engineering) courses
  • Continued academic extracurricular clubs such as Math Olympiad, Science Clubs, Odyssey of the Mind, and Robotics at the same level.
  • Continued athletic opportunities for students
  • Continued Technology supports for students: 1:1 Technology/Chromebooks at grade 9-12 (take home) and 5-8 (in school) and 3:1 Technology/Chromebooks K-4 (in school)  

Closing the Gap

In order to offset the $3.2 million dollar budget gap that South Colonie is anticipating,  the district proposed staff reductions of nearly 40 FTE positions in the latest budget proposal.  Nearly three quarters of the position reductions will be accomplished through retirements and the elimination of temporary positions yet, the district is still facing some layoffs of part-time and full-time staff members. 

The plan also outlined a proposed reduction of equipment, supplies, contracts, overtime and substitute costs totaling over $600K of the $3.2 million dollar gap.

Immediate remedial actions

In order to preserve to the extent possible quality programming while maintaining affordability for the school community, the district is taking some additional immediate remedial actions including:

  • implementing a spending freeze on non-essential spending;
  • reviewing all vacated positions due to retirement and resignation;
  • implementing hiring restrictions on future vacated positions;
  • extending retirement notification deadlines for staff;
  • conducting a comprehensive review of programs and services; and
  • continuing budget planning for further State Aid reductions in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Budget and board elections delayed

Under an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all New York state school budget votes originally scheduled for May 19 have been postponed until at least June 1. 

The directive, which aims to limit the spread of COVID-19, also impacts the election of board members and the proposed bus purchase proposition.

To coincide with this new timeline, South Colonie Board of Education has postponed their budget adoption and public hearing to early May. The district will provide more information about the annual school budget vote and timeline once it becomes available.

View the Second Draft of Proposed Budget, Tax Impact, and Bus Proposition presentation here.