One more piece of the Three Village school budget puzzle fell into place this week – though it did not necessarily fall in favor of the district's ability to close its budget gap.
The Consumer Price Index, which measures changes in the prices people pay for typical goods and services, was determined by the federal government to be 2.4 percent for the year ending February. According to the most recent contract agreement with the Three Village Teachers Association, the level of the CPI accounts for between 1.75 percent and 2.5 percent of the teachers' contractual salary increases.
Since the CPI came in at 2.4 percent, that means the teachers' average salary increase comes to 6 percent out of a possible maximum of 6.1 percent. With the average salary increase at 6 percent – though not all teachers will receive that, due to variations in salary tiers and education credits – the district will spend $4,082,000 more on salaries in the 2013-14 school budget than it did in the 2012-13 school budget.
"We were hoping it would come out a little bit less than that to generate a little more savings," Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said during a budget presentation on Tuesday night.
The revelation had trustees Deanna Bavlnka and Susanne Mendelson calling for the Three Village Teachers Association to open its contract for re-negotiation. The current contract expires in 2016.
"The contract needs to be opened. There's really nothing we can do," Bavlnka said.
"We're stuck in a conundrum," Mendelson said.
"And time is running out," Bavlnka said.
Mendelson added: "It's just realities. There's only one way. Everyone knows what the one way is."
Due to the stresses of the budget gap, which was initially pegged at $8.1 million at the start of this year, Carlson has said as many as 81 full-time equivalent teaching positions could get cut, though the more likely number of layoffs will fall somewhere around 65.1.
TVTA president Claudia Reinhart did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
With the teachers' salaries now firmly budgeted in, and $7.1 million in other reductions proposed, the district still needs to find a way to cut $920,000 from existing programs, equipment, and services in order to stay within its 4.05 percent tax levy cap, which is what Three Village is allowed according to state law this year.
The final variable in the equation is financial support from New York State: Three Village administrators are counting on an increase in school aid in the finalized state budget, which is due to be discussed at a special extra budget workshop session the school board added for Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.
This is significant because they are projecting a larger increase in the amount of state aid for Three Village; originally, the district was only than what it received last year. The State Assembly proposed a budget that increases foundation aid, and the State Senate proposed a budget that would restore for Three Village as much as $578,000 in high tax aid – a category of state aid that was slashed in Governor Andrew Cuomo's original budget.
"I know we have too many ‘if this happens’ and ‘if that happens,’ but we’re hoping what the Senate has proposed actually happens," Carlson said.