ESF Not Reason for Budget Reductions (02.18.11)
Posted by Catherine Wilson on 3/17/2011 12:00:00 PM
John Scanlan, Deputy Superintendent of Administration
I am sure that many of you have heard or read about the financial status of our State and the impact that it is having on the school districts of New York. This includes our District. Although we have not felt the impact as harshly as comparative districts such as Buffalo and Syracuse, we are facing a significant deficit. Our estimated deficit for the 2011-12 year is approximately $80 M. It is important to understand that this deficit is due to not only the decrease of revenue, particularly State funding, but also to the increase in District expenses. In fact $51 M of the $80 M deficit is due to the anticipated increases in contractual salaries, retirement benefits, health insurance costs, payment of early retirement payments to the retirement system, cost of fuel for transportation, cost of supplies, maintenance for facilities, and other rising costs. Increased salaries and employee benefits make up approximately $37 M of the $51 M increase in expenditures. This size of the deficit will cause the District to make some difficult decisions in order to continue to invest in the education of our children. According to our new governor, this is the first year of several years that education will be reduced in funding by the State government.
As we go through this period it is important to understand that Equitable Student Funding (ESF) is not the reason for the budget reductions. ESF is a tool to strategically align scarce resource decisions to support our highest educational priorities. As we align our dollars and work toward the equitable distribution of these limited resources, we will continue to invest in areas necessary to promote the welfare of all students. It is necessary to make changes that will promote the reduction of costs throughout this year and future years, but our students remain our first concern. Whether we use ESF or any other model, we will still have less money available and will need to continue to make difficult budget decisions.
ESF will actually allow us to invest our limited funds more strategically by involving individuals that are the closest to the students that we serve. The formula used in ESF directs funding to those with the highest needs. It will allow our school leaders to allocate our reducing dollars to areas that maximize academic impact for our students. Our presentation of funding will have a higher level of clarity and transparency that has not been available in the past.