NHP-GCP Superintendent Katulak Provides Sobering Budget Details

He notes that Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address will help shed light on the local budget.

The following is from an address that gave at the board of education meeting on Monday.

Tonight's message is not one that I share very happily, but as we begin our public portion of budget input, we heard eloquently from about what is essential for the families and it is also essential for everyone to understand that this year will be the most difficult year we have ever had in budget development in the history of public education. Federal government recently announced to all educators that there will be no additional increase of funds set aside for educational relief. The New York State Department of Education has relayed to the schools' superintendents that not only will there not be an increase, but there will be a reduction in our state aid over what we were allocated this year.

Mandated statewide contributions to the employee retirement system have increased approximately 39% as have the teacher's retirement system, it has also increased to approximately 39% as well. These two increases coupled with an increase of an estimation of between 15 to 20% for health care added to contractual salaries brings us to a starting point of 6.77% budget to budget if we leave every other budget line flat. Last year, we came in at the public's input with a budget increase of 3.1%, so we're already twice as much as what we wanted to have. We'll be meeting with all of our directors and principals to do additional cuts, but this has a lot to do with where we're going. Just to let you know, as a fiscally prudent measure, I spoke to the Board of Education this summer about making the federal subsidy to the allocation of $187,783 from the Federal Government Education Jobs Act; that money could have been used for this year's budget or saved for next year's budget. We knew that this year's budget was going to be a very, very stringent process and so we saved that money for a little bit of a relief for us. So we'll apply that to the budget we're currently developing.

Our difficult task now is to look at ways to reduce our expenditures while simultaneously trying not to cut essential services and programs. As we listen to public input that started tonight, we ask everyone to understand that due to these dire circumstances we will not be able to implement any new programs other than those that are mandated by the state and we're praying that there are no longer unfunded mandates coming. Nor will we be able to do any services or renovations to our buildings and grounds other than those approved in our Capital Reserve Fund budget passing. We will be posting all the pubic input suggestions under the budget section of our district website after the board meetings. We're look at this budget as a multi-year development because we know that the economic crisis will not be resolved in two or three years. It will take two to three years just to get back on the road to recovery. We don't even know if we've hit rock bottom.

This year will be hard on everyone in our educational community and we're going to ask your patience and support for the work of the board and administration is going to do. No one likes to cut programs. However, we're waiting anxiously for Wednesday evening when Governor Andrew Cuomo will be giving his State of the State address. At that time, we're listening for what he's talking about regarding a tax cap. He's been talking all during his campaign of a 2% tax cap. That's serious business because last year, it was a 4% cap and we were able to come under that with 3.1% with doing over $400,000 worth of cuts in terms of our expenses. So this year we'll be looking at how we can survive in this economy and hoping that if he does come in with a tax cap, certainly things might be exempted such as those mandated contributions to the pension system and health care costs. Economic advisers and the New York State Council of School Superintendents have said that this cap is inclusive of everything; there aren't going to be any exclusions. We'll wait and see and that will all be taken into account.

So if you can't make a meeting, please go onto the website a couple of days after the meeting. You'll check what was brought up and then at the budget work sessions, we'll be discussing each of these things.

The State of the State address will be between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., according to the Governor's website.


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