State continues to shift school funding onto taxpayers

The Fayetteville-Manlius School District’s preliminary 2018-19 budget includes funds for enhanced safety and security measures and maintaining existing programming for students while holding the tax levy increase at the district’s tax levy limit.

The preliminary budget of $82,993,692 would increase spending by $2,264,754, or 2.81 percent, compared to the current 2017-18 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 2018-19 by $67,045, which is 0.08 percent of the district’s total preliminary operating budget.

The two primary revenue sources for the district are state aid and the tax levy, which is the total amount of money the district collects from property owners within the district to support the school budget. Due to reductions in state aid over the last decade, the tax levy has continued to fund a greater share of the school budget.

Even assuming the state Legislature would double in the final approved state budget the amount of state aid the governor proposed for F-M, state aid would make up 22.7 percent of the district’s preliminary budget while taxpayers would fund 74.4 percent.

The governor’s proposed foundation aid increase does not cover any of the cost increases the district is projecting that are outside of its control, such as health insurance premiums, workers’ compensation insurance, retirement system costs and the rising cost of diesel fuel, said William Furlong, F-M’s assistant superintendent for business services.

“The state should be allocating $14,594,415 to the district, instead of the under-funded amount of $9,442,496 as proposed by the governor,” Mr. Furlong said. “This only continues the trend of shifting more of the cost of public education from New York state to individual taxpayers.”

To offset the 2018-19 projected expenses, the administration is proposing to use $750,000 of fund balance as revenue.

2.06 percent tax rate increase projected

Based on F-M’s preliminary budget, the district estimates that for a town of Manlius home, the resulting tax rate increase would be 2.06 percent, or 53 cents per thousand of assessed value. That equals $52.79 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.

The town of Manlius makes up 81 percent of the properties within the school district.

The total tax levy increase of 3.8 percent, or $2,278,198, is at the district’s tax levy limit, or cap. The tax levy is the total amount of money the district collects from property owners within the district to support the school budget. The tax levy is just one factor, along with assessment rates and equalization rates, that figures into determining the tax rate, which is used to calculate what each property owner will ultimately pay in school taxes.

The tax rate increase is usually lower than the tax levy increase due to growth in the tax base.

Safety and security enhancements proposed

Included in the 2018-19 preliminary budget is funding to address enhanced security measures districtwide. The district is continually working with local law enforcement officials to ensure the safety and security of its students and staff. A number of steps have been taken in recent years, such as designating single-point of entries during the school day at each of the district’s school buildings.

The preliminary budget includes funding to add an additional school information and resource officer (SIRO) to its current staff of two full-time Manlius police officers serving the district. The district launched its SIRO program in 2012 with one officer and added a second officer for the current school year.

Each of the officers spends time with students and staff at the district’s six school buildings offering advice, support and direction on a variety of topics, including drug abuse, violence, bullying and theft.

In addition to interacting one-on-one with students and staff, the SIRO participates in each school’s safety drills and reviews district safety and security plans.

The preliminary spending plan also includes the purchase of additional security cameras to be installed throughout the district. The district already has cameras in multiple locations, including outside building entrances and at parking lots.

The F-M Board of Education is scheduled to vote upon a proposed budget April 2 that would go before voters on May 15.