State continues the trend of shifting school funding onto taxpayers

The Fayetteville-Manlius School District’s preliminary 2019-20 budget includes funds to maintain existing programming for students and enhance security measures while holding the tax levy increase at the district’s tax levy limit.

The preliminary budget of $85,874,682 would increase spending by $2,975,990, or 3.59 percent, compared to the current 2018-19 school year.

The state aid figures proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January show that F-M’s foundation aid, which is the district’s base operating aid from the state, is estimated to increase in 2019-20 by $94,458, which is a less than one percent increase and an increase of only one-tenth of one percent on its current budget. This continues the state’s trend of shifting public education support to the taxpayer, said William Furlong, F-M’s assistant superintendent for business services.

State aid is one of the district’s main revenue sources, but for many years, it has been below the level prescribed by law. Since 2007-08, the district has received nearly $72 million less than what it should have under the current aid formula. For 2019-20, the governor is proposing the district receive $5.65 million less than it should according to the formula.

A state budget with final foundation aid figures is due April 1. The district will then finalize its budget proposal, which could change from the preliminary budget depending on how much state aid the district receives. The F-M Board of Education plans to vote April 8 on the budget proposal, and district residents will then vote on the budget May 21.

The district is projecting increased costs in areas such as employee health insurance premiums and workers’ compensation insurance. It is also proposing money be allocated for more security measures, such as additional security cameras across the district, more staff training and funding for additional school resource officers.

The other primary revenue source for the district is the tax levy, which is the total amount of money the district collects from district property owners to support the budget. F-M’s preliminary budget carries a tax levy of 63,621,970, which is at the district’s tax levy limit increase, or cap, of 3.17 percent.

The tax levy is just one factor, along with assessment rates and equalization rates, that determines the tax rate, which is what is used to calculate what each property owner pays in school taxes. The tax rate increase is usually lower than the tax levy increase due to growth in the tax base. While the 2018-19 tax levy increase was 3.67 percent, the majority of district residents saw their tax rate decease because of this growth.

Based on F-M’s preliminary budget, the district estimates that for a town of Manlius home, the resulting tax rate increase would be less than 1 percent, or 25 cents per thousand of assessed value. (The town of Manlius makes up 81 percent of the properties within the school district.) That increase equals $25 on $100,000 of taxable value, which is a property’s assessed value minus any exemptions, such as STAR, and is the basis for what people actually pay.