The Malverne School District may have to cut programs and personnel in order to create a budget for 2013-2014 that pays for all mandated services and employee benefits while remaining under the tax cap.
At Wednesday's poorly attended budget development forum, school officials revealed preliminary numbers, shared the results of an online survey, and explained the challenges facing the district this year.
“The numbers are fairly heavy. They are devastating in terms of what we have to do to maintain our current academic programs and efforts for the children of this district,” Schools Superintendent James Hunderfund told the Board of Education and the few residents seated in the mostly empty Herber Middle School auditorium.
As a starting point, Malverne Business Administrator Thomas McDaid calculated the roll-over budget for 2013-2014 by taking the cost of all existing programs, personnel, and other fixed expenses, rolling them over and accounting for projected increases in 2013-2014. That figure came to $52,220,638, more than $3.6 million (7.45 percent) higher than the current school budget, with about 80 percent allocated to instruction and benefits.
About half of the $3.6 million increase stems from dramatic spikes in pension contributions, health insurance costs and tax certiorari, three areas the district has no control over.
A nearly 40 percent increase in the amount New York State requires the district to contribute to its Teachers Retirement System is largely responsible for the $1.6 million increase in employee benefits. For 2013-2014, the district has to pay about $800,000 to TRS and $180,000 the state’s Employee Retirement System.
Health insurance is also to blame. The district is expected to pay 14 percent more for health insurance for its employees, an additional $1,000 for every staff member with an individual plan and an extra $2,000 for those with family plans.
Costs related to “Instruction,” everything from teachers’ salaries to supplies, are going up by just over $1 million, and “General Support” by around $200,000.
On a positive note, the district saw a $7,000 reduction, mainly due to modifying its lunch program, and transportation costs continue to go down, this year by roughly $28,000, as a result of the district’s purchase of a small fleet of buses a few years ago.
What does all this mean?
Under the tax cap, the tax levy -- the total amount the district collects from taxpayers – can only increase by a maximum of $646,685, not counting exemptions, for 2013-2014.
That means between now and April 9, when the board adopts the budget, Malverne needs to cut anywhere from $1.7 million to $2.1 million from its roll-over budget. The exact figures could fluctuate as the district gets a better idea of how much revenue and aid it will have to work with next year, but regardless, the challenges it faces will not change very much.
Officials braced the public for possible personnel cuts across the board, which would result in larger class sizes, and the elimination of non-mandated services and programs including art and music in some grades. The district could also restructure custodial and security services, renegotiate contracts, suspend all non-voter-approved facilities improvements, and reduce non-mandated curriculum development, high school electives, field trips, athletic teams and after-school activities.
To guide them in making these difficult decisions, district officials have been collecting feedback from residents through an online survey (see slideshow for results) and will continue to take suggestions through upcoming budget forums. The next time the budget will be discussed with the public is at the Jan. 8 board meeting.
“Not everything is going to be able to stay,” McDaid said. “That's why it’s very important to have your voices heard to be able to help mold this budget.”
Click through the slideshow (under the PDFs section) to view the presentation from the Dec. 19 meeting. To fill out the district's budget survey, click here.