School budget vote on May 18

Proposal provides support for students while staying at the tax levy limit

Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, May 18 to consider a proposed $30,844,918 budget for the 2021-22 school year. The plan continues all existing student programs and support services with a 3.34% year-to-year spending increase and a tax levy at the district’s limit. Polls will be open from noon-9 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

Key Points

  • FFCS will continue all existing student programs and support services in the 2021-22 budget.
  • The year-to-year spending increase amounts to or 3.34% or $997,207.
  • The district is balancing the budget through a combination of fund balance, state aid and property taxes. The proposed budget includes a tax levy increase of 0.29%, or $31,353. This is at the tax cap of 0.29%.
  • Federal stimulus money is not included in the 2021-22 spending plan. Stimulus funds will not be used for ongoing costs (see more information below).

Academic excellence

Under the proposed budget, the district will continue to pursue academic excellence and opportunities for students. The plan prioritizes rigorous academic programs, supports for student mental health and social/emotional learning, and restores extracurricular, athletics and arts programs that were cut from the current budget.

The district will reallocate resources to increase services for students without increased costs. For example, the proposed budget includes the hire of a full-time school psychologist instead of contracting for a part-time school psychologist service at the same cost.

FFCS will accelerate its educational technology plans with increased distance learning opportunities for students and enhanced equipment in classrooms.

Total Expenses

Spending in the proposed budget totals $30.8 million. It is a 3.34% year-to-year spending increase.

Based on state aid projections, available revenue for next year will not cover the growth in expenses. The district has a budget gap that needs to be closed. Ciaccio is recommending to address the budget gap with a balanced approach of increasing the tax levy, using fund balance and controlling costs through operational efficiencies.

State Aid & Federal Aid

The enacted New York State budget no longer includes long-term provisions that would have reduced school aid for districts. FFCS will receive a year-to-year $349,316 increase in state foundation aid. State aid accounts for almost two-thirds of the district’s revenue.

American CARES Act (Federal Stimulus)

School districts in New York State will be required to develop a plan and apply for federal stimulus money from the CARES Act. These stimulus funds will not be used for ongoing operational costs such as salaries or transportation. Stimulus money will be tied to targeted costs, including summer programs, technology, and social-emotional supports for students.

FFCS is developing a plan for the stimulus funds to support student achievement and continued health and safety measures related to COVID-19.

Fund Balance

FFCS is planning to use $1 million in reserves and fund balance to help balance the budget. Fund balance can be thought of as a savings account. In the case of school districts, it can be used to help with unanticipated expenses or to help manage the tax levy through a planned, long-term approach.

Tax Levy

The proposed budget includes a 0.29% tax levy increase. This is at the district’s tax cap of 0.29%. Because the proposed tax levy increase is at the cap, the proposed budget will require a simple majority vote for approval. The tax cap law only applies to the tax levy (the amount of taxes collected by the district), not to tax rates or individual tax bills.

School Bus Proposition

During the budget vote in May, voters will consider a proposition to approve a five-year lease for a 28-passenger bus and a 66-passenger bus at a cost not to exceed $157,000 total. Voter approval of the lease will allow the district to continue to have three leased buses. The use of leased buses has generated significant savings for the district in areas that are not eligible for state aid, including the late bus run.

Board of Education Candidate Election

Voters will elect three candidates to serve three-year terms on the board of education starting July 1. The seats are presently occupied by Michelle Isabella, Dennis Egelston and Domenic DiNatale, whose terms end June 30. All three incumbents are seeking re-election.

What’s Next?

  • Vote on the budget and the board member election on Tuesday, May 18 from 1-9 p.m. in the high school auditorium lobby. Absentee ballots are available by request.