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February 20, 2013

City School anticipates difficult budget

PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh City School District anticipates having to make difficult budgetary decisions for 2013-14.

“The circumstances before us from a budget point of view are dire, they are challenging,” City School Associate Superintendent Jay Lebrun said at the recent School Board meeting.

Those circumstances, according to Lebrun, include significant cost increases coupled with only modest increases in revenue.

AID VS. RISING COSTS

Preliminary estimates based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2013-14 executive budget proposal show the district receiving a 0.97 percent increase in state aid next school year.

However, Lebrun said, salaries and employees and retiree benefits, which account for close to 70 percent of the school’s operating budget, are on the rise.

Faculty salaries are set to increase 4.15 percent on average in 2013-14, he said, while health-care costs are projected to increase 7 percent.

In addition, Employee Retirement System rates are expected to go up 12.8 percent next school year and Teacher Retirement Fund rates, 37 percent.

“These cost areas drive the majority of our budget,” Lebrun said. “They represent the lion’s share of our budget.”

PUBLIC INPUT SOUGHT

The district has not yet determined its state-mandated tax-levy limit for 2013-14, as school officials are awaiting more information from the state regarding the formula used to calculate the figure.

Board member Fred Wachtmeister, who presided over the meeting due to the absence of both Board President Leisa Boise and Vice President Tracy Rotz, encouraged members of the public to attend meetings and provide their input during the budget planning process.

The School Board, he said, needs to hear from people who might wish to advocate for the inclusion of particular programs in the spending plan, as well as individuals who feel the district should make reductions.

“This time of the year, we need to bring out that larger community to help us as we move forward,” Wachtmeister said.

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