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School board to unveil ideas to reduce $4.3M budget gap

Monday, February 4, 2013
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— The Niskayuna Board of Education will get its first look tonight at potential budget reductions as the district tries to close a $4.3 million budget gap.

Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio will outline budget scenarios at 7 p.m. in the Van Antwerp Auditorium.

The district will look at efficiencies, cost-containment strategies, program reductions and tax levy options.

If all programs and staff from the current $75.3 million budget were preserved, the 2013-2014 budget would be about $78.9 million, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Matthew Bourgeois.

At its last meeting, hetold the board that the significant increases in the budget are for retirement and health insurance costs.

Pension costs are increasing by about $1.5 million. The required contribution to the Teacher Retirement System is increasing from 11.8 percent of payroll to between 15.5 and 16.5 percent. Also, health insurance is going up about 6 percent from $7.8 million to $8.2 million.

However, revenues are shrinking as well, which is creating a larger budget gap. The $4.3 million figure assumes that the district presents a budget that increases the tax levy to the cap limit, which school officials have calculated to be 3.37 percent. If the tax levy did not increase at all, the district would be facing a $6 million gap between revenues and expenditures.

Board member Robert Winchester asked about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $203 million “fiscal stabilization fund” and the proposal to lower pension costs by locking in a lower pension rate, essentially borrowing against the future savings the districts would see as more employees start coming under the less-generous Tier VI benefits.

Bourgeois said at this point there are no details as to how the fiscal stabilization money would be distributed. As for the pension costs, he said if schools chose that option, they would be indebting future boards, which might have to pay a higher pension rate because the current board underfunded the system by locking in a lower rate.

Board member John Buhrmaster added that the underfunding would catch up to school districts eventually.

 
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