Breaking down the budget process

— It is time to begin a public dialogue about next year’s district budget. This will be another exercise in frustration. Once again, we are looking at dwindling state revenues for our district ($3.55 million less than last year) accompanied by cost increases (many of which we have no control over) yielding a potential budget gap of $10.3 million. Again this year we will tap fund reserves (to anemic levels), pare down budget line items and delay those purchases that we do not absolutely have to have. But schools, by their very nature, are labor-intensive, and upwards of 80 percent of a school’s budget are personnel costs. Extreme cutbacks in school funding (especially three years in a row) necessarily translate into fewer people on the payroll.

The last two year’s budgets have been rather excruciating and this year proves to be more of the same. The budget process begins with the superintendent rolling out his 2012-2013 budget proposal on Feb. 27 (7 p.m. at Soule Road Middle School). The board will then go through a process of examining the budget and amending it as necessary. New York state law requires that the state budget be in place by April 1. While this timeline is seldom met, the completion of the state budget has obvious implications in the development of local school district budgets (we obtained 39.41 percent of our district’s revenues in 2011-2012).

The board has until April 2 to make any amendments to the superintendent's budget proposal. During this five-week period, the board meets several times (typically on Monday evenings) to review the district’s budget. The development of the budget is the responsibility of the board; therefore, much of the dialogue at these meetings is conversation among board members. However, there is a time for public comment reserved at each budget development meeting. At this time, any district resident may speak with regard to any part of the budget proposal.

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