William Floyd officials are moving cautiously into the public portion of the budget season this year, as several members believe the new makeup in the state Legislature will have an impact on aid given to schools on Long Island. At a meeting of the budget advisory committee on Jan. 31, which is open to the public, officials briefed the handful of attendees on how the budget process could play out and where the district is coming from.
The district will receive approximately $4.6 million more than last school year (2018-19), for a total of $117 million, if the governor’s budget proposal, released on Jan. 15, is approved by the state Legislature. Almost always, these numbers change. The proposal includes increased aid in transportation costs, excess school costs, BOCES costs, and technology costs. A separate line includes increase in funding for “community schools aid,” which involves mentoring services, summer school coordinators, healthcare connections, and other methods to “maximize student achievement,” according to the district presentation.
Board members were also frustrated with the process of yearly reports to “underfunded” and “underperforming” school districts. State education law requires transparency reporting for districts with more than four schools that are seen as “unfunded high-need schools” by the NYS Department of Budget. The district will find out on May 1 if they are designated in this category, and afterward may have to submit a plan to increase funding to any school that is considered underfunded and high need. School board president Robert Vecchio said this plan is the governor ignoring the will of local officials — administration and board of education members — and the voters who elected them. He chided “bureaucrat[s] in Albany” for giving standards without understanding the bigger picture. Administration officials said that inequity in schools could amount to a number of factors, including demands of special-needs students, seniority of faculty, and more.
The total tax levy cap will be 3.74 percent for the upcoming budget, which is compliant with the 2 percent state cap, due to the calculation of a formula that includes and excludes certain school revenues. But school officials demonstrated how since the cap was announced, all but one yearly budget (2016-17) came under the maximum. Last year, the maximum was 3.4 percent, but the real levy was 2.03 percent. The district also receives revenue from a myriad of other sources, including rental of property, gifts and nonresident tuition.
The wealth ratio, which generally determines how the community is changing over time, has continued to decline since the recession that began a decade ago. Based on the measured metric, in 2008-09 the wealth ratio was .618, compared to .511 this school year. Officials added that the community has gotten poorer, enrollment has dropped, and there are more students with higher needs.
The district also recently announced that it was rated with “no designation” in the state comptroller’s annual report on fiscal stress in schools — the highest of the rankings. According to a press release sent by the district, the survey examines whether school districts are facing problems in budgeting, and looks at solvency indicators such as fund balance levels, operating deficits, cash on hand and reliance on short-term borrowing. Environmental indicators like the district’s tax base and poverty rates are also reviewed.
The budget process will continue through the winter months with advisory committee meetings, which will take place before the regularly scheduled board meetings on Feb. 12 and March 12 at 7 p.m. The board will adopt the proposed budget on April 16 at 7 p.m. and a hearing will be held on May 14 at 7 p.m. The budget vote will be on May 21 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.