March 27 budget update

On March 20, the district released a budget update article detailing the increases from the 2023-24 to the 2024-25 budget. The next step in the budgeting process is for the Schuylerville Board of Education to adopt the 2024-25 budget, which will be done during the April 15 business meeting. The district has received some questions about the budget so far, with answers detailed below.

The district will continue its effort to maintain an open dialogue about the budgeting process, and update this Q & A with any further questions that arise. Following the April 15 Board of Education meeting, an article will be posted to the district website detailing the proposed budget; all budget related-information is regularly updated on the district website’s budget page. The district’s annual budget newsletter will be mailed to all residents in May.

Q: Can the district use reserves to help balance the 2024-25 budget?

A: There are two different types of reserves that NYS Education Law authorizes a school district to establish: restricted funds and unrestricted funds. Restricted funds can only be used for specific, legally defined purposes such as employee departure sick/vacation payout, real estate tax certiorari, capital project funds, workers’ compensation, and other potential liabilities as defined by the NYS Comptroller. An unrestricted fund balance for a school district is similar to a savings account, with monies that can be used in a serious circumstance at the district and Board of Education’s discretion. Yes, the district plans to use fund balance to help offset the 2024-25 budget deficit. It is important to note however, just like a personal savings account, this practice is not sustainable year to year. 

Q: Does the district have a decline in enrollment and what does that mean for the budget and the school district as a whole?

A: In February of 2024, WSWHE BOCES released an enrollment trends report spanning 30 years, 1993-2023. In 1993, the district enrolled 1,549 students; in 2023, the district enrolled 1,402 students, a 9 percent decrease. While the number of students has decreased over time, the number of funded and unfunded mandates from NYS have increased, along with per pupil cost, and student, principal and teacher accountability. During and after COVID-19, the district made a commitment to keeping class sizes small in an effort to return to in-person learning as soon as possible. However, now faced with potential cuts to foundation aid, increases to employee benefits, and increases to operational costs, the district will be looking to right-size in multiple ways, utilizing staff attrition and other cost-saving strategies.

Q: What is the status of the COVID-19 relief funds that the district received over the past few years? 

A: Currently the district has expended all of the COVID-19 grants, based upon the parameters set forth by the federal government to address the lost instructional time resulting from the pandemic. Over a period of three years, Schuylerville used relief funds to:

  • Create academic programs focused on closing of the gaps created by the pandemic
  • Provide accelerated and summer enrichment opportunities
  • Build a sensory room to serve as a therapeutic space for children with special needs
  • Purchase CTE and Agricultural Education materials and supplies
  • Provide increase CTE and Agricultural Education student opportunities 
  • Provide curricular materials and resources to support ELA, math, science, and social studies.
  • Supply books to enhance classroom libraries and summer reading efforts. 
  • Make improvements and upgrades to several academic spaces, including:
    • Three distance learning rooms in the high school
    • Flexible seating in the high school library and classrooms 
    • New chairs and desks in the elementary and middle school
    • High school recording studio
    • Music education (equipment)
    • High school science lab (material) 

While these funds served an excellent purpose, they were temporary and will be exhausted in September of 2024.

Q: Why do school districts raise taxes despite foundation aid funding?

A: While foundation aid is the primary source of funding for public schools, state aid does not fully fund school districts. Historically, Schuylerville’s proposed budget is often under the allowable NYS tax cap.

  • 2023-24: 1.98%
  • 2022-23: 1.32%
  • 2021-22: 0.9%
  • 2020-21: 2.90%
  • 2019-20: 1.67%
  • 2018-19 : 1.9%
  • 2017-18: 0%
  • 2016-17: 0%

Schuylerville is among 51% of schools in NYS that are being negatively impacted by the proposed change in the foundation aid formula for the 2024-25 budget. Under the Governor’s budget proposal, the “Save Harmless” provision is eliminated, which has historically guaranteed school districts receive no less foundation aid than they did the previous year.