During their regular meeting on Monday, May 18, members of the Broadalbin-Perth Board of Education adopted a $35,894,890 budget proposal for the 2020-21 school year. Qualified district residents will vote on the proposal exclusively via absentee ballot because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; all ballots are due to the district office by 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 9.
The proposed budget represents a 5.7% decrease in spending from the 2019-20 school year, and calls for a tax levy increase of 3.74%, which is below the district’s calculated tax levy “cap.” A simple majority of voters (more than 50%) is required for budget approval.
The year-to-year spending decrease can primarily be attributed to decreased spending on capital debt after the district paid off its 2003 capital project. Because the district is no longer paying for that project, the state is no longer providing building aid for that portion of the district’s debt.
“Roughly the same amount of money came off of both sides of the budget – revenues and expenditures,” said Assistant Superintendent Marco Zumbolo. “It’s basically a wash.”
Broadalbin-Perth is also planning for a reduction in state foundation aid. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced cuts of up to 20% of state aid to schools, hospitals and local governments because of decreased state revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has told those same entities to prepare for the possibility of mid-year cuts.
“We are budgeting very conservatively,” said Superintendent of Schools Stephen Tomlinson. “We are doing all that we can within our control to minimize the effect of any loss of state aid on our programs, while also working to help families in our community who may be facing economic hardships because of the pandemic.”
Tomlinson noted that the planned September 2020 reorganization of the schools will save the district an estimated $500,000 during the coming school year, and the district will not replace 5.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) teaching positions that were open because of retirements or resignations. The proposed budget also calls for the elimination of three instructional support staff positions.
While the proposed budget calls for a 3.74% tax levy increase, Zumbolo says preliminary data shows many residents will see their tax rate decrease for the coming year to $17.36 per $1,000 of equalized value – down from $17.51 in 2019-20.
“We’re seeing the total assessed value of properties in the district increasing as people build new homes and businesses or make improvements to existing structures, and in many towns, equalization rates are decreasing,” Zumbolo said. “As more properties come onto the tax rolls, the tax levy is divided among a greater number of properties, resulting in a lower tax bill for many property owners.”
What happens if the budget is voted down?
In most years, if a majority of residents vote no on a proposed school budget, the Board of Education would have three options: Put the same budget before the voters a second time; put a revised budget before the voters; or adopt a contingent budget. This year, however, New York state has made no provisions for a second vote. Unless schools receive further guidance, if the budget is voted down June 9, Broadalbin-Perth would have to adopt a contingent budget.
Under the property tax cap law, a school district that adopts a contingent budget cannot increase its current tax levy. To meet this requirement, Broadalbin-Perth would cut $584,705 from the proposed budget, which would bring the spending decrease down to –7.26%. In order to meet contingency requirements, the district would reduce spending on equipment and district-provided school supplies. The district would also reduce funding for athletics and extracurricular activities, and eliminate additional teaching and support staff positions.
Qualified residents of the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District will vote on the proposed 2020-21 budget exclusively by absentee ballot. The district will mail absentee ballots and postage-paid return envelopes to all registered voters. (Click here to find out if you are registered to vote.) Residents are invited to learn more and ask questions about the budget proposal during a virtual budget hearing starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 26. Detailed information about the budget proposal and other ballot propositions will be posted on the district website in the coming weeks. An informational brochure will be mailed to all households in late May.