BCSD Budget Presentation

I attended the Public Presentation of the 2013-14 BCS budget on April 9th. “Public Presentation” is a misnomer since the public was not allowed to ask questions. Instead we were told that we would be able to ask questions during the budget hearing which is of course, after the Board has adopted the budget and no changes can be made. In the past several years, the Superintendent has made a Public Budget Presentation (last year it was on March 27th) and the public was allowed to ask questions. Not so this year. I hope they are not taking lessons from Bernie Bassett.

Mr. Amo gave the following info:
1. We are using $1.065 Million of fund balance that will leave $1.5M

2. Assessed property values are expected to increase approx. 1%

3. The tax levy increase (additional amount charged to local taxpayers) will be $770,145 which is a 4.2% increase over last year

4. Some groups will be receiving salary increases

5. Plan A health insurance will increase 4%

6. TRS (Teachers’ Retirement System) expenditures will increase from 11.8% of payroll to 16.25% of payroll. Due to down turns in the stock market, the district/taxpayers are required by law to maintain these accounts at certain levels.

7. ERS (Employees’ Retirement System) expenditures will increase from 18.9% of payroll to 20.9% of payroll. Due to down turns in the stock market, the district/taxpayers are required by law to maintain these accounts at certain levels.

8.There will be no changes in elementary class sizes, extracurricular activities, or educational programs.

9. They have built in a small buffer in case sequestration adversely effects Title I or IDEA moneys.

10. BCS and all Clinton County schools have experienced significant decreases in enrollment. BCS remains the 2nd largest behind Peru. BCS has had a net loss of 220 students since 2005. This represents about 1.5 graduating classes.

11. Tax rates are expected to increase from $16.88/thousand to $17.48/thousand or by 3.55%

12. Salaries and benefits make up 70% of the total budget; benefits are increasing by 7.5%

13. Mr. Amo displayed a chart showing that we had one of the lowest tax rates in the county which is very misleading. He did not mention however, that we have the LARGEST tax base or assessed value in the county which is well over $1Billion. Remember….Tax rate alone does not determine the tax bill.
Tax bill = tax rate X assessed value. I have brought this up to him for several years now and still he displays that misleading slide. Perhaps that is why we were not allowed to comment this year; he did not want to hear from me again?

14. There will be 18 retirements this year. Most of the positions will be filled but the district will still recognize savings from it.

15. Mr. Amo anticipates an increased need for AIS services for students who do not score well on the state tests. Their current method of delivering AIS services is extremely inefficient. There are many cases where the AIS teacher has 1,2 or 3 students in each class. This is not acceptable (IMO). I have been complaining about this problem for 2 years as well.

16. In 2014 the state will require that all standardized tests be administered via computer so we are having to put money aside to cover that expense.

17. The reserve account for compensated absences is only 42% funded. This funding level is too low (IMO). When the Comptroller cited the district for an excessively large fund balance in 2009-10, one of the recommendations he made was to use the excess funds to shore up these types of accounts. That was never done and now the surplus is gone and some liability accounts are underfunded.

18. There are 3 unions in negotiations with the BOE. Mr. Amo indicated that given the decreased likelihood of a windfall in state aid next year, the new contracts would need to produce a NET SAVINGS and not merely a “reduction in increases” to avoid significant and substantial hardship and layoffs/and or program cuts next year.

19. April 23rd- the Board expects to adopt the budget

20. May 14th Budget hearing where you can ask questions but by that time the budget is a “done deal.”

21. May 21st is the budget and board member vote

What Mr. Amo did not talk about:
1. The $5M NEGATIVE balance on our Statement of Net Assets; that means we had liabilities which were greater than assets by $5M. Imagine if you had a house that worth less than you owed on it; you would be “under water,” yet that is where our district is.

2. The long-term retiree health care liability that was $93.5 Million last June…with $0 set aside. In order to meet that obligation we would have needed to set aside $27million last year. That number is growing by millions each year. In November, April Bingel asked the auditor how to correct that situation. Michael Boulerice replied that the retiree benefits (health insurance) would have to be negotiated to a more affordable plan and/or terms. I wish our Board negotiating team much success in arriving at more favorable terms.

The talk of “insolvency” is resounding throughout the N. Country with North Country Public Radio reporting that 1/4 of NC schools will be insolvent within 2 years.

I challenge our Board, Admin and Super to sharpen their pencils and do a better job so we don’t become a part of that casualty list.

What can you do? Support RESPOSIBLE Board Candidates. How?
CHTA “Meet the Candidates” on Thursday April 18th at 7:00 at the CH fire dept.
UFTK “Meet the Candidates” on Thursday May 2nd at 7:00 at the Beek. Town Hall