District addresses budget development; addresses tax cap

School budget pie chartThe Minisink Valley Central School District held its third budget development finance committee meeting on Thursday, March 7, before the regularly scheduled Board meeting, a continuance of its detailed work to formulate a fiscally responsible budget for the 2019-2020 school year.

Earlier in the week, district leaders met with all Minisink Valley faculty and staff to address concerns raised regarding a preliminary budget projection of a possible 11.8 percent increase in the tax levy.

Superintendent Brian C. Monahan said this is the first of a multi-year approach to address the gap between projected revenues and expenses.

“Budget development is a process and we have much work to do,” Mr. Monahan said. “We are committed to the long-term fiscal competence of our district and we will do all we can to stay true to our educational mission by preserving student programs and opportunities while being responsible to our taxpayers and our staff.”

At the start of Thursday’s work session, Mr. Monahan briefed the audience on the steps of the budget development process.

Mr. Monahan said all school districts are required to inform the state’s Comptroller’s Office if they anticipate piercing the state’s tax levy cap in a March 1 filing, using the state’s tax cap formula.

The early projection of an 11.8 percent tax levy increase, Mr. Monahan explained, reflected the worst-case scenario estimation. However, the formulation of the district’s proposed budget is an ongoing and lengthy process. It will continue over the next month and include a thorough and comprehensive review of proposed revenues and expenses, before it’s presented to the Board of Education in April.

Mr. Monahan said there are important factors to keep in mind:

  • The current state’s tax cap formula gives Minisink Valley schools a negative tax levy cap of minus .47 percent and would require the district to make extensive spending cuts to stay within the cap.
  • The initial state aid runs for 2019-2020 project a $1.4 million reduction in state aid from the current year.
  • Expenses have exceeded revenues for the past two budget cycles.

Since the establishment of the state’s tax cap law, the district chose to avoid maximizing its levy in order to keep school tax increases well below the cap.

Over time, Mr. Monahan explained, conservative tax levies, combined with decreased state aid, were not fiscally sustainable.

To ensure the district remains in a long-term fiscally healthy condition, preserves its high-quality academic and co-curricular programs, and is mindful of the financial impact on taxpayers in the years to come, the district is taking a vigorous, multi-pronged approach to balancing the 2019-2020 budget:

  • A reduction of expenses through staff attrition and incentives to early retirement. This approach is made possible in part by declining enrollment and partial position replacements at a lower cost.
  • A reduction in non-salary expenses in each department and school.
  • Increasing the tax levy.
  • Offsetting the tax burden through the use of fund balance.

Administrators for Buildings and Grounds, Pupil Personnel Services, Athletics and Transportation presented their 2019-2020 budgets during Thursday’s development meeting. Three budgets propose expense reductions from the current year.

Additional information will be forthcoming as the budget process continues.