Submitted by the Lewiston-Porter BOE
As reported last week, the Board of Education has adopted its 2019-20 $48.487 million budget. Crafting the budget is an interesting process. While Lew-Port calculates its anticipated expenditures, it must proceed through budget development without solid numbers from New York on Lew-Port’s state aid allocation (revenues).
New York struggled with a budget deficit again this year, but did meet its April 1 deadline. With solid numbers, the board was able to adopt a balanced budget April 2.
New York allocates education funds based on the complicated Foundation Aid Formula. Lew-Port’s increase to foundation aid for 2019-20 is .75% (or $72,265). Foundation aid is state aid for operating expense; other aid is expense-driven, representing a return for monies spent in the previous year (for example, transportation, BOCES and special education expenditures).
While overall education spending increased, foundation aid remains significantly underfunded and continues to make no commitment for increases beyond the upcoming year. Schools are now owed over $4 billion in foundation aid, based on the formula derived in 2007. Lewiston-Porter has strongly advocated the formula be looked at using current foundation aid dollar amounts as a baseline, and then reestablished based on predictability, equity and transparency. We will continue to advocate for increased funding for our district at the state level to relieve the burden on our local taxpayers.
We are confident the budget is fiscally responsible, focused on education and long-term sustainability, and fair to our taxpayers. A public budget hearing will take place Tuesday, May 7. The budget vote and Board of Education election will take place May 21.
The spending plan: supports Lew-Port’s 2016-20 strategic plan; maintains educational programs, K-12; provides a safe environment for students and staff; limits spending and focuses on conservative, long-term fiscal planning; and is fair to district taxpayers.
Budget development began in January, and Dr. Patti Grupka, Lew-Port assistant superintendent of administrative services, led the board through a series of budget development work sessions, analyzing multiple facets of district operations. Board members learned Lewiston-Porter is facing major budget impacts this year. Included are: health insurance costs; the impact of minimum wage increases; contractual increases (including anticipated increases: ongoing negotiations); NYS retirement system teacher and employer contribution rate increases; capital debt variance (anticipated to spike over several years); and transportation and special education increases.
Despite these impacts and a lack of increased state aid, the board views the 2019 spending plan with cautious confidence. Through the development process, nonessential spending has been frozen, reserves are being strategically allocated, and every dollar (expense and revenue) is maximized.
The budget is balanced not just at this, but also throughout the year. Lew-Port’s business office constantly and closely monitors spending; capital debt is strategically reviewed and refinanced to capture savings; and the district continues to work with each of its bargaining units to provide significant cost containment to health care insurance costs.