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School District Projecting More Than $8 Million Budget Gap

Board president: "It's probably going to be more difficult than last year."

School officials in Three Village are concerned that the upcoming budget process could be even more difficult than last year's, which saw the first shot at a school budget fail before the community approved an at-the-cap budget of $176.7 million.

According to a preliminary budget presentation delivered at a Dec. 11 school board meeting, this year Three Village is facing a gap of around $8.75 million between a "rollover" budget, which would preserve all current programs and staffing levels, and a "tax cap" budget, which would require steep cuts.

Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said to close that gap would require a 10.2 percent tax levy increase, but Three Village's cap on a tax levy increase will fall at approximately 3.6 percent – a figure which won't be finalized until February.

The largest area of increase is expected to be the district's mandatory contribution to the state's teachers' retirement fund system, which could total around $17 million in Three Village. That would be an increase of more than $4 million, which represents a jump of 31 to 39 percent. For comparison, Carlson pointed out, in the 2001-2002 school year the district's total contribution was $302,000. The actual increase, however, won't be set until February.

"That’s a big part of it. That’s hurting everybody," Carlson said.

Contractual salary increases for teachers and staff members could amount to $4.6 million – though this number is based on the consumer price index (CPI) – and health insurance costs, which could rise between $2.5 million and $3 million but which won't be finalized until February.

Carlson said those estimates factor in no changes in the amount of state aid the district receives. The district received approximately $36 million in state aid in the 2010-11 school year and approximately $35 million in the 2011-12 school year.

In a "best case scenario," Carlson said, a lower-than-expected CPI will limit the contractual salary increases; health insurance rates and retirement fund contributions will be lower; and state aid will increase. Those factors could reduce the budget gap to around $6.5 million instead of $8.75 million.

Board of Education president Dr. Jeff Kerman said it was "not an eye-opening shock, but still not great to hear."

"It's probably going to be more difficult than last year," he said. "We are going to have to dig deep into the numbers."

The Board of Education meets again Jan. 8; it typically kicks off its formal budget workshop series in March.

justme December 20, 2012 at 01:30 PM
It's pretty obvious that there needs to be a change to the teachers' too generous retirement benefits. The BOE should be lobbying the state to lower the "mandatory" contribution to the retirement system instead of looking for more money from taxpayers.
EG December 20, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Interesting how the School District wasted no time embracing and demonstrating with the fringe leftist groups to bust the cap, but they'll wait until March to start to figure out their massive budget shortfall.
Judith December 23, 2012 at 02:43 PM
In the aftermath of Newtown it is difficult to understand how one can question the value of dedicated and caring teachers who make such a critical difference in children's lives every day. As a grandparent of 2 boys in the district I value our teachers beyond measure.
Tc December 23, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Does this revelation about the LARGE budget shortfall really shock anyone..REALLY? This will be the annual cry for the foreseeable future unless the Board of Education grows a "pair"! However, I doubt that will happen with the incumbents in place. The reality is, the state aid situation is dismal and will continue this way. The BULK of the budget is in the administrative and teachers salaries and retirement benefits. Until this is addressed appropriately the once FAMED 3V SCHOOL DISTRICT will see programs and services cut and the overall quality of education spiral downward. My opinion!!
tired of the bs December 23, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Tc you are so correct in where the BULK of our budget is going. We have administrators on top of administrators. And when the Board threatens the cuts it will threaten our children's progams. That's how the get the foolish public to vote yes. Can't remember when our TOP administrators have EVER frozen their salaries and benefits. They "defer" the raises but in the end they always get them. Meanwhile SACC, custodians, monitors. Special education aides and your kitchen staff work for peanuts. Get rid of these"little non essential" personnel and you would have NO functioning school.

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