Board hears preliminary budget proposal

Herkimer CSD Superintendent Robert Miller presented a preliminary spending plan to the Board of Education at its April 15 meeting, which was held remotely and available by live-stream to the public.

The proposed $25,175,000 budget for the 2020-21 school year reflects an increase of $965,000  — or 4% — over current year. It carries a 4.49% property tax levy, which is below the district’s tax levy limit of 4.86%.

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order postponing the school budget vote until at least June, the board does not expect to act on the proposed spending plan until sometime in May.

Miller noted that state aid for Herkimer for the 2020-21 school year is expected to total $13,793,000, an increase over the previous year of approximately 0.3%. This is less than was projected in the governor’s initial budget earlier this year by approximately $750,000, and the governor has warned school districts that aid could be cut during the school year due to the pandemic.

Under the proposed spending plan, the largest increases are projected to be salary and benefits: about $450,000 for instructional staff, $71,000 for maintenance and operation staff, and $56,000 for administrative staff. The district’s debt service is also projected to increase by $263,000 as the district begins to pay down the costs of the 2018 capital project.

The spending proposal would leave four instructional positions unfilled, for a savings of approximately $250,000. These could come from retirements, or positions that are otherwise vacated due to staff leaving the district.

Additional savings would come from returning students to in-house special education programs; eliminating the district’s participation in annual conferences for board members and administrators; and seeking shared services with other area schools through BOCES.

In an effort to keep local taxes below the levy limit, the superintendent proposed appropriating $1.1 million from the district’s fund balance to support the budget proposal.

Miller said his hope is that this increased use of fund balance is temporary, and that the district would be able to return to making contributions to its capital fund by no later than 2022-23.

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