2015-16 School Budgets: An Early Conversation

Many schools are on spring break, and 2015 school district elections are more than a month away (May 19), so a school budget may be the last thing on anybody’s mind.  However, the school budget represents an opportunity for the voting public to see the spending and saving priorities of their local administration. When voters discuss and vote “yes” on a school budget, they are determining how many teachers get to teach and which education programs are worth preserving.  And when they vote “no” on a school budget, they are sending a clear message to the school administration that the administration’s priorities are not necessarily the community’s priorities.

District budgets do not have to be finalized until May 5, but we are already beginning to see the discussions take form.  Last week, The Journal News/LoHud issued a series of articles and data releases (courtesy of the NY State Comptroller’s office) regarding school budgets.  So here’s the shakeout so far.

The Infamous Tax Cap

As of March 29, Rye and Edgemont were the only two Westchester school districts that had preliminary plans to override the tax cap. The tax cap limits property tax cap increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation (whichever is less).  Any NYS school district that attempts a tax cap override requires approval from 60 percent of voters. (NOTE:  If you can take a sneak peek into what goes into property tax cap calculations here.)

However, keep in mind that both Rye and Edgemont had publicized their intentions BEFORE NY State had released information on state funding.  That changed on March 31.

NY State Aid Projections

On March 31, NY State released its state aid projections. The Journal News/LoHud reported on various district reactions, and released a database summarizing the projections. (NOTE:  The NY State tool shows in greater detail how state aid would be allocated. Here’s an example.)

The infographic below shows how state aid is influencing local school budgets.

  1. We used the LoHud database as the basis for this infographic which shows the state aid increase in percentage points for Westchester school districts in the next budget year.
  2. That same LoHud database formed the basis of the second infographic, which shows the total amount of projected state aid for each school district.

This conversation is far from over, and as May 19 approaches, we’ll continue to look at the school budgets, and what this means for Westchester’s children.