On Monday, April 16th, the Board of Education for the Briarcliff Manor Union Free School District adopted the proposed budget, submitted by Superintendent Neal Miller, of $47,650,000 for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. This represented a decrease of 1.55% ($750,000) from the budget for 2011-2012, the fourth year in a row that the school district has reduced their budget.
“We did a lot of tightening,” explained Superintendent Miller when asked how the district managed to lower the budget while absorbing higher pension and health care costs. “That’s probably the major thing. We’ve taken from our reserves. We really did a conscientious job of making sure that all of our expenses are as they should be. We are not losing any teacher FTE (Full Time Equivalencies) and we’re not losing any programs – we’re not having to reduce anything.”
The other thing that wasn’t reduced, unfortunately, was the tax levy. Due to a drop in revenues the district was forced to raise taxes even while they were cutting spending. “We’re coming in with this budget at a tax levy increase of 2.74%,” said Miller, who explained that for the purposes of Albany’s 2% tax cap, the district’s allowable tax levy limit was 2.94%. “So we’re under the tax levy limit.”
Serving just under 1,600 students, the district’s CPP (Cost Per Pupil) stands at $29,912. This year’s cuts were made with an eye towards ensuring that as much of that money as possible goes directly to the students’ educational experience. “We’re really committed to lowering our budgets just because these fiscal times are so difficult,” said Miller. “We’d really like to do that, but do it without affecting our students and the things that are closest to them, and that would be their teachers, their programs, things like that. This year went a long way in being able to do that.”
Like the other districts in the area, Briarcliff was forced to spend a portion of what little money it has to implement Albany’s mandated APPR(Annual Professional Performance Review) evaluation program. “It’s going to cost some money. We put some extra money in the budget for professional development because there will certainly be a lot of that for our teachers. Also we may have to purchase certain things that are required such as particular exams that are approved. We don’t know exactly, but we have budgeted for it just in case. The main thing is that we increased our professional development budget by 35%.”
While the district was able to squeeze the budget yet again this year without cutting programs or raising class sizes, at some point, there will be no fat left to trim and the cuts will begin to affect the students in the classroom. Asked for a timeline on when that might occur, Miller wasn’t able to say. “We don’t know,” he said. “We’re working on a five-year plan, so that’s something we’re putting into place, and until we have that I wouldn’t want to venture a guess.”