To obtain most of the districts information on the budget and the vote click here http://www.onondagacsd.org/districtpage.cfm?pageid=1954
Below, are questions that have been asked about the district budget and the budget process. If you have other questions not seen here, feel free to reach out to the Business Administrator, Jennifer Woody at 315-552-5001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: How can I get a look at a detailed version of our current budget proposal alongside our last five approved budgets? I’d like a to review how we’re allocating funds in specific areas.
Answer: The Budget book for 2020-21 is on our district web page. This has the detailed budget amounts for the current year and proposed budget for next year. http://www.onondagacsd.org/tfiles/folder1918/Budget%20Book%202020-21.pdf
Question: Does the budget account for last year’s reassessments?
Answer: When Tax payer vote for the budget, they are also voting for a certain amount for the tax levy. If assessments change for the towns, then the budget does not change. The only thing that changes is the amount a tax payer pays. If assessments go up, then tax payers pay less and if assessments go down, unfortunately the taxes will go up. The district uses last year’s assessment rates to calculate this years estimated cost for the tax payer, so it is only an estimate.
Question: My assessment did go up; we paid $1,000 more after our escrow account was reevaluated after the new assessment was instated. Now that I’m already paying an additional amount, will I still see an increase with this new budget proposal?
Answer: The state and towns decide the assessments of home within our district. Properties assessment potentially can change based on the Town, therefore a property owner could see a greater increase in taxes if their assessment goes up. Not knowing the details of your escrow account and if it contains more than just your tax bills (ie: insurance etc)., it would be hard for us to provide you with further detailed information. The 2020-2021 proposed estimated 2020-2021 budget has $0.41increase per $1000. Once property assessments were completed last year the 2019-2020 actual school district tax rate increase was $0.006180 per $1000.
Question: Who decides where we are going to spend our funds?
Answer: The greatest amount of the overall expenditure decisions are driven partially by student enrollment and student needs (Educational Program 70% of the budget) with administration and staff presenting a budget to the Board of Education, which is a three-group process including BOE, staff, and administration.
Question: As an example, I’ve noticed that 3 new school buses are on the proposed budget. I think we approved 3 new buses last year and 3 new buses the year before that. I was wondering who decided on the allocation of the money?
Answer: The district maintains an annual school bus replacement schedule, which drives our bus purchase decisions. This year we proposed to replace three buses. The decisions are based on safety, age, mileage, and repair costs per bus, which are documented and tracked. The district has a planned replacement schedule on average of keeping busses for 10 years so the district does not have a large spike in the number of buses to purchase in a given year.
Question: I probably should know more about the process, but I’ve never really delved into it. Our proposal to spend more than we have and ask the community for more funds just seems to be very inappropriate given the economic hardships we are currently enduring.
Answer: This year’s budget accounts for the use of fund balance and reserves to provide enough planned money for the district to weather this recession without exceeding the NYS Property tax cap. Additionally, we are facing State Aid Pandemic adjustments cuts 2-3 times this coming school year of up to 20%. Our budget goals and strategies include but are not limited to maintaining educational programs and current staff to meet the student needs and can absorb unexpected costs and/or cuts. This year’s budget development process saw overall reductions of 1.5% without affecting educational programs and staffing.
Question:A couple of years ago voters approved a bond issue for upgrades to the bus garage, and at that time I came in and spoke to you about the lack of specific areas of application in the request. Again, on this last bond issue, I wondered about the vague wording regarding the needs of the upgrades and repairs and reading over the list as it seemed to me that many of these items had been addressed in the last dozen years. The thought seems to be that if a bond is coming off, we need to replace it and continue the flow of funding. I would suggest we consider letting it go and lowering the tax rate for the community. I expect this year to be very expensive to adapt to the needs of the COVID-19 mandates, and where will that money come from?
Answer:I understand your thoughts and the district looked into this option. Although it would save taxpayers money, postponing it will cost taxpayers more later. Much of the work we will be completing for this upcoming project is work the district will eventually have to complete and cannot be left undone. Additionally, while calculating debt service and costs with the guidance from the District’s fiscal advisors, it was discovered that if we let this debt come off now, it would cost taxpayers even more in a few years. Increases caused by inflation and escalation of materials and construction costs will result in getting less renovations for the dollar. At the current NYS Aid reimbursement rate the district costs are estimated to $0.15, on the dollar.
Question:My main concern at this time is the growth of the administrative and central service areas. This has been addressed over and over again...what is the need for a superintendent, an assistant to the superintendent, a business manager, a principal and assistant principal, and athletic director full time, and a principal for Wheeler and for Rockwell. Unless the facts have changed, we have lost another hundred or so students and should not need such a top-heavy staff. We have added two full-time administrative jobs with a declining population. Could you study this?
Answer:We currently have one Superintendent, and one Business Administrator at the Central Office and at the building level, we have a principal for each building, and Vice-Principal at the Jr/Sr HS, part-time Athletic Coordinator and part-time Committee on Special Education Chair. Annually, we examine staffing needs across the district for adjustments and reductions. We will continue to study administrative, instructional, and non-instructional staffing to be most efficient and responsible.
It is important to clarify that in our budget newsletter there was an increase in administrative costs for this year. This increase was not an actual total increase, but money moved out of one account and into another due to new required government transparency reporting.
Question:Further, I note from proposition 3 that we have $1,500,000 in capital reserve. It used to be $500,000, and to use all of it at once would have canceled the need for more bonds. I worry about storing that much money for a rainy day but borrowing when the day is here. And anyway having such a large fund.
Answer: This year we are asking the community to use the 1,500,000 capital reserve, to help fund the capital project that was approved by the community in March. Several years ago, the district was planning ahead for renovations of facilities to maintain the taxpayers' investment, therefore, sought and received approval for the capital reserve from taxpayers, which then was funded to prepare for this project. Also, there are strict regulations for how the district can use each reserve, which can only be used to help fund district capital projects. We are also asking the community to create a new capital reserve to prepare for another project that will include roof replacements and other health and safety upkeeps to the facilities in the future. We are only asking the community to fund the reserve up to 1,500,000 and does not necessarily mean we will save that amount, it is only the maximum amount. If economic conditions are not right, funding the capital reserve will be challenging and limited. We will keep student programs as our priority during any economic downturns.