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Community members share thoughts about budget, project at forum

2017 Community Budget Forum

Local residents including parents, current high school students, staff and alumni shared their ideas and feedback with the Schoharie Board of Education at the 2017 Community Budget Forum the evening of Feb. 27.

Superintendent David Blanchard and Assistant Superintendent for Business Bob Bonaker spoke with participants about both the development of a budget for the 2017-18 school year and the proposed capital renovation project.

Blanchard noted that the Board of Education approved on Feb. 16 to move forward with the proposed capital project, which residents will vote on May 16, the same date they vote on the school budget. He provided background on the project after the evening's group discussions. READ MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT

Bonaker presented an overview of the district's preliminary budget, which is what would be needed to deliver existing education programs and services at next year's estimated costs and projected state aid.

The preliminary budget would include a 2.99% increase above the current school year's budget, mostly to cover the increased cost of salaries and health coverage. With a projected state aid increase of 0.29% (less than 1%) and a tax levy limit of 0.4% (less than 1%), the preliminary budget contains a gap of $344,385.

Budget reductions and additional allocation of available fund balance in that amount would be necessary to balance the budget if additional state aid is not provided by the Legislature and Governor. DOWNLOAD PRELIMINARY BUDGET PRESENTATION

2017 Community Budget Forum

After Blanchard and Bonaker's presentations, forum participants broke into two discussion groups for a facilitated discussion of the following:

Discussion question 1:

Expectations for today’s students are rising, as are costs related to providing the education they need to prepare for college and career. At the same time, school districts and their residents are challenged in meeting those costs by inadequate state aid and limits on the amount of funds that can be raised through local school taxes.

A. Setting funding issues aside, what do you, as a member of the Schoharie Central School District community, value most about the programs and opportunities in our district?

B. With an overall projected state aid increase of just 0.29% and a state-mandated tax levy limit of less than 1 percent (about 0.4%), Schoharie Central School District’s Preliminary Budget contains a revenue gap of -$344,385. Budget reductions and additional allocation of available fund balance in that amount would be necessary to balance the budget if additional state aid is not provided by the Legislature and Governor.

• Would you be willing to support a school budget that eliminates or reduces programs, services and/or staff in order to keep the 2017-18 budget within Schoharie’s tax levy limit? Why or why not?

• Which programs or services would you be willing to live without in order to keep the budget below the district's tax levy limit?

• Which programs or services would you most want to see protected?

• Recognizing that the Preliminary Budget has a $344,385 budget gap, would you be willing to support a 2017-18 school budget that exceeds the district’s tax levy limit of less than 1 percent (0.4%) – and requires approval by at least 60 percent of voters – to raise taxes to cover the gap if that meant the district could avoid some or all reductions to programs, services and/or staff? Why or why not?

2017 Community Budget Forum

Discussion question 2:

Just as Schoharie Central is dedicated to preparing its students for a successful future, it invests considerable time and energy into caring for the buildings and classrooms in which they learn. Daily wear and tear and the aging of the high school have taken their toll beyond what can be remedied through routine maintenance and repair.

At the same time, technology and space requirements for today's learners are vastly different from the past. On May 16, district residents will vote on a proposed $19,875,000 capital project to cover the cost of renovating the 90-year-old building.

The district’s goal is to complete the capital project with minimal, if any, impact upon the future tax levy. More than 83 percent of the cost would be covered by state building aid. The local share of the cost would be covered by a Capital Project Reserve Fund, also subject to voter approval on May 16, to be drawn from the district’s available fund balance.

Information about the proposed capital project has been shared through a school-community facilities improvement committee, on the district website, at Board of Education meetings, coverage by the media and during a Jan. 25 community forum.

• Have you been following the district’s efforts to keep the community informed about the proposed capital project? What additional information would you need to make an informed decision on May 16?

• Would you be interested in attending a community forum on the capital project if one were held in
the future?

2017 Community Budget Forum

Thank you to all who participated in the forum, which provided district with valuable community feedback.

Anyone with comments or input on any of the above discussion items, is encouraged to please share them with Schoharie Central School District by contacting the office of the superintendent.





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