Not only does the Batavia City School District's proposed 2016-17 budget have no tax increase, the average homeowner can expect a decrease in the tax levy.
The good news doesn't stop there.
Come October, homeowners can expect a property tax rebate check in the mail from the state.
"I think it's pretty impressive that the tax rate is flat and that the average homeowner can expect a tax reduction," said Superintendent Chris Dailey, "because of the district's efficiency."
The district is saving taxpayers' money and planning program enhancements, Dailey said.
The spending plan totals $44,366,439.
It is because the district is keeping the tax levy below the tax cap (up to 1.48 is allowable with a simple majority vote; more requires a super-majority vote), that homeowners are once again eligible for a State property tax rebate, to be mailed directly to them this fall from NYS.
Adopted budgeted expenses for the upcoming academic year, and the corresponding percentages of the budget, are:
- General Support -- $5,5333,723 (12.5 percent)
- Instructional Support -- $26,092,772 (58.8 percent)
- Transportation -- $1,817,170 (4.1 percent)
- Employee Benefits -- $10,517,772 (23.7 percent)
- Interfund Transfers -- $405,000 (0.9 percent)
Overall, expenditures are up 2.9 percent over last year, primarily due to increases in the cost of employee benefits and the need to replace some equipment which has been postponed for a number of years, Dailey said.
Payroll expenses have gone up slightly each year -- .39 percent -- over the last nine fiscal years through 2014-15, an average of $71,413 annually districtwide.
To save money, the district shares a number of services with other area districts. These positions are a curriculum coordinator, ESL Services, Athletics, and a Nutritional Services director. Althogether, the savings from shared services are in the six figures annually, Dailey said, noting that whenever sharing is feasible to do "it's always a good thing."
Proposed enhancements to programs for 2016-17 include the following:
- One Jackson School Reading/Math AIS teacher
- One John Kennedy School elementary teacher
- One high school Math teacher
- One John Kennedy School Computer Skils/AIS Math teacher
- One (part-time to full-time) high school/middle school Art teacher
- Four Jackson/Kennedy teacher aides
- One high school Security aide
- One Jackson buildings and grounds cleaner
- One middle school date processing clerk
- One district Instructional Teachnology coordinator
- One-to-World Chromebooks, grades 5-12
- Recordex Interactive Monitors
- $100,000 NYS aidable Capital Outlay Project for middle school cost-efficient lighting upgrades
City schools spend less per pupil when compared to schools statewide. The total average expenditure per pupil in Batavia is $19,207, according to the district's budget synopsis, compared to a statewide average of $21,812.
As a matter of standard practice, the district continues to pursue alternative funding sources. These include renting space at the vacant Robert Morris School.
"It's at 60 percent (rental) capacity, which pays for the custodian and the utilities, easily, and it turns a profit for the district, which is pretty unique," Daily said. "We are negotiating with several parties and expect to announce some deals soon."
Also, the newly formed Batavia City School District Foundation enables donors to receive a tax deduction for contributions while creating an alternative funding source for the district.
The district also competes annually for state and federal grants -- anticipated at $2.5 million for 2016-17. Some grant money is available because 54 percent of the district's students qualify for free and reduced-priced lunches.
The grant money contributes to targeted programs to improve learning for disadvantaged students, to supplement professional development and provide universal Pre-K, which "helps 75 percent of incoming kindergarteners to get a jump on school success."
The proposed budget calls for using just over $2 million from the Unemployment Insurance Reserve, surplus Fund Balance, the Employee Benefits Accrued Liability Reserve, Repair Reserve and the NYS Employee Retirement Reserve.
"New York State encourages school districts to spend down their reserves," Dailey said. "We use our savings to help out."
The proposed budget is on the ballot on Tuesday, May 17, along with three vacancies on the Board of Education. Voting will take place between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Residents north of Route 5 (Main Street) vote at Robert Morris School building, 80 Union St.; residents south of Route 5, vote at Batavia High School, 260 State St. If you need clarification of where to vote, please check the street-by-street guide on the district's Web site or call the Business Office at 343-2480, ext. 1002.