Fayetteville-Manlius residents will consider a school budget proposal for the 2017-18 school year on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Before the vote, the F-M Board of Education will work with district and school leaders to develop a budget proposal informed by the district's mission, educational goals, fiscal challenges and opportunities.
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F-M hopes for more state aid to avoid cuts in 2017-18
Jan. 26, 2017: If the New York State Legislature does not increase the Fayetteville-Manlius School District’s base operational state aid compared to what New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his Executive Budget Proposal, district officials are estimating they may need to reduce district spending up to as much as $500,000 for 2017-18 to stay under the district’s projected property tax levy limit, or cap.
“Crafting a proposed budget that allows us to continue meeting community expectations regarding the education we deliver while being cognizant of the taxes we are asking our residents to pay is always a delicate balance,” Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “We are concerned because the state has yet to increase the district’s base operating aid to the levels it promised back in 2006. If the state does not fix the foundation aid formula to honor the inequities highlighted by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, this will shift an unfair share onto our property taxpayers.”
Funding for the district’s operating budget comes from two main sources – state aid and the tax levy, which is the total amount of money the district collects from local property owners. Other smaller revenue sources, such as Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) agreements and county sales tax, make up the district’s remaining revenue sources.
While the state aid figures released by the state budget office show that F-M’s Foundation Aid, which is the district’s base operating aid from the state, would increase in 2017-18 by $167,194 under the governor’s proposal, the district would actually receive $35,440 less in total state aid when comparing F-M’s current actual state aid budget, $19,155,078, to the estimated aid outlined in the executive budget.
Also, F-M is not receiving the amount of state aid that it should based on the outcome of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, said Michael Vespi, F-M’s assistant superintendent for business services. The state should be allocating $13,576,843 to the district, instead of the $9,292,848 proposed by the governor, he said.
State aid only supported 24 percent of F-M’s total $79,619,741 proposed 2016-17 budget while the tax levy was budgeted to fund 73.3 percent. The remaining 2.7 percent was expected from sources such as county sales tax and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements.
“We would like to see the state take on more responsibility for supporting the programs and services we offer our students and that residents have said in our annual budget exit survey that they want maintained,” Dr. Tice said.
The governor’s proposed increase in education funding for 2017-18 falls short of recommendations from the Board of Regents and the Educational Conference Board, a coalition of the state’s major education groups. The Regents called for an overall $2.1 billion increase in school funding, and ECB estimates $1.5 billion is necessary just to continue current school services next year.
Both ECB and the Regents called for the state to renew its commitment to Foundation Aid, the formula enacted in 2007 to ensure all school districts have the funding needed to provide students with a sound, basic education. As the recession affected state finances, the phase-in of Foundation Aid stalled and the state currently owes schools $4.3 billion in Foundation Aid based on the formula that is written into current law – including $4,283,995 to Fayetteville-Manlius.
Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposal seeks to discontinue the provisions of the formula that call for it to be fully funded over time. Instead, beginning in 2018-19, districts would only be guaranteed the amount of Foundation Aid they receive in 2017-18, with any state aid increase to be allocated through a method that is to be determined.
This has prompted some education advocacy groups to raise concerns that the original intent of Foundation Aid – providing districts with adequate and predictable funding each year based on student needs – will never be realized.
The F-M district faces annual cost increases in areas such as staff positions, and with less money from the state to offset those costs and a limit to the amount of money the district is willing to ask of its taxpayers, the district will be forced to make spending reductions to balance the budget, which could impact the current level of programs and services.
The district’s tax levy limit, or cap, determines what level of voter support a district needs to pass its budget. That figure, currently projected at less than 2 percent, won’t be final until state aid allocations are finalized. Mr. Vespi is recommending the district not exceed its limit, which would then require a supermajority of voters (60 percent) rather than a simple majority (50 percent +1) to authorize the budget.
To stay under its projected cap, the district either needs more money from the state to operate its current programs and services or school officials will have to make cuts, Mr. Vespi said.
The Executive Budget Proposal formally opens the budget negotiations between the governor and the New York State Legislature. In the coming months, the Assembly and the Senate will also release budget proposals. Legislators have until April 1 to adopt an on-time state budget.
District residents will have an opportunity to vote on F-M’s final budget proposal 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 16, 2017, at Fayetteville Elementary School.