A closer look at the 2020-21 budget proposal

Watervliet residents will be asked to consider a proposed $28,560,000 budget for the 2020-21 school year. Voting this year is exclusively by absentee ballot, with a deadline of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9. Ballots received after that date and time will not be counted. The mail-in vote was mandated in an executive order dated May 1, 2020 by Governor Andrew Cuomo in response to ongoing public health concerns related to the spread of COVID-19. Read more about voting by absentee ballot

The proposed 2020-21 budget increases spending by 1.3 percent, or $373,000 more than the current-year budget, and allows the district to preserve current educational programs and services for students.

The majority of budget expenditures are dedicated to the cost of educating students. The proposed budget would support instructional costs and educational programs; cover increased costs for contractual salaries and benefits, technology, BOCES services and transportation.

The proposal carries a tax levy increase of 1.98 percent, which is slightly below the district’s maximum limit under the state’s tax “cap” formula. School tax rates, which determine the amount of money property owners pay per $1,000 of assessed value, will be set in August when the district receives the final tax assessment roll from the City.

Under the state budget, which was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, school foundation aid is flat. State and federal aid comprises about 71% of the district’s annual revenue. The proposed 2020-21 budget was developed with the assumption of possible mid-year cuts to school aid due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Cuomo has indicated that if the federal government does not provide stimulus funding to the state, schools should expect aid cuts of up to 20 percent.

Efficiencies and reductions in the proposed budget

Given the flat state aid increase and the possibility of mid-year reductions in aid, district leaders sought to cut costs to balance the budget. Several instructional and non-instructional positions that are currently vacant due to retirements or resignations will remain unfilled next year.

The district also is taking the follow actions to reduce or contain costs:

  • Reduce building-level budgets for materials, supplies, and equipment.
  •  Institute a hiring freeze, unless positions are essential to health or safety.
  • Apply $250,000 from the fund balance to avoid increasing the tax levy beyond the allowable “cap” to remain responsive to district residents, and preserve programs and services for students.

The district will also continue to seek and apply for grants.

What if the budget is voted down?

If the proposed budget is not approved by voters, the district would operate under a contingent budget. By law, under a contingent budget, school districts are prohibited from raising the tax levy more than that of the prior year, or a 0% increase. If the budget is not approved on June 9, the Board of Education would likely adopt a contingent budget that would require an additional $143,000 in reductions.

Board of Education election

Two candidates are running for two open seats on the Watervliet City School District Board of Education:

  •  Tim Delisle is running for a first term.
  • Mary Beth Whited is seeking re-election to a second term on the school board.

Read about candidates running for the Board of Education