Written by Chris Boyle Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00
The Herricks School District unveiled the first draft of its 2014-15 budget at the Feb. 6 board of education meeting. Despite the recent financial woes besieging many New York schools in the form of cuts in aid, tax caps, and unfunded mandates, the news delivered to parents last week was far more good than bad for once.
Superintendent of Schools John Bierwirth noted that, after three consecutive years of cuts totaling in the millions of dollars to Herricks’ spending plans, the outlook for 2014-15 was considerably brighter due to a multitude of factors.
“Over the past three school years, in round figures, we’ve cut 100 positions...coaches, teachers, administrative positions, custodians, secretaries, aides and assistants,” he said. “Thanks to several factors, we are not going to have to cut any further at this point, and
between state aid and a few other things that have occurred, we have about $530,000 which can be added back in.”
Next year’s budget, in its current form, comes in at $106,616,646; representing a 1.91 percent increase over 2013-14; but when taking $422,000 of aid into account, the projected budget raises to $107,038,646, representing a 2.31 percent increase from last year.
The tax levy cap for 2014-15, as set by the state, stands at 1.46 percent.
Other factors contributing to the positive outlook for Herricks’ spending plan for next year includs increases in health insurance and employee retirement systems rates; no new expensive mandates from New York State (although substantial costs remain from the state’s recently-mandated assessment testing); a number of staff retirements; and the fact that the district has only budgeted for increases required by law for when the contracts for the administrators and the teachers association expire on June 30.
The district is recommending a new $3.5 million capital bond issuance, which according to district officials, will cause no bump in the tax levy between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Bierwirth said that the additional monies could be used to make a small number of restorations to areas that had previously suffered cut. However, he said that “great care” would be used when making those decisions, especially in light of recent issues involving larger-than-desired class sizes brought on by staffing cuts.
“It would be tempting to use all of this money to hire back, say, five positions, which would be good...but we would still be down 95 positions,” he said. “Some ask what it would take to restore us to the class sizes that we had before we started cutting people...even without current, somewhat lower enrollment, we would be up around $3 million. So, the [extra] $500,000 we have won’t get us there.”
Bierwirth said with careful planning and fiscal responsibility, Herricks should continue to thrive.
“I’m not going tell you that it’s necessarily going to be better in 2016 or 2017, but I don’t think we’re going to have to go back and make cuts again,” he said. “I think that is reasonable to expect that we will be no worse than we are at this point.”