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Voters approve 2013-14 budget by wide margin

66 percent support district's $212.9 million proposal

Residents approved the City School District of Albany's 2013-14 budget by a wide margin May 21, with more than 66 percent approval.

 

The $212.9 million budget passed 1,885 to 955. The budget includes a 2.95 percent increase in the tax levy, which is within the district's state-mandated "cap" of 3.36 percent.

 

"This shows that there are a large percentage of families that are supportive of the work we are doing," said first-year Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Ph.D. "We also understand that there is much more work to be done, and we look forward to doing that in the coming year with this strong show of support from our community." Visit our From the Superintendent section to read more from Dr. Vanden Wyngaard.

 

The 2013-14 budget eliminates nearly 60 positions. However, it also takes advantage of an increase in state aid to provide additional classroom support for students, including Albany High School freshmen, and boost technology resources at all levels.

 

The final budget, which the board approved unanimously April 11, also reinstated several cuts that had been proposed earlier in the budget-development process. Those restorations included Albany High electives in art and Chinese, music positions at the elementary and middle levels, and a summer music program.

 

In total, the budget would eliminate 58.5 positions, 42 of which are substitutes (16 teachers, 17 teaching assistants and nine security staff). These cuts will bring to almost 360 the number of positions that the district has eliminated over the past five years in the face of steep cuts in state aid and rising employee and charter-school expenses.

 

The 2013 budget edition of Capital Education mailed to city residents provided additional information about the budget. You can check it out in our Publications section, and you also can download a 2013 budget fact sheet in .pdf format.

 

The proposed tax-levy increase of 2.95 percent is below the district's state-imposed limit of 3.36 percent that would have required a higher threshold of voter approval. See below for more information about the state's tax-levy limit.

 

Before finalizing the budget April 11, the board agreed to:

  • Restore Chinese I at Albany High School. The introductory year had been proposed for elimination due to declining enrollment

  • Restore funding for a summer music program for grades 4-12 and increase funds for new musical equipment

  • Fund the upgrade of all elementary and middle-school personal computers and a district-wide move to wireless Internet capability

The budget also contains new initiatives, including:

  • Five days of professional development and training for teachers

  • Technology updates district-wide, including the replacement of 200 computers and the installation of wireless networks in all buildings

  • Three new high school teachers to support Albany High freshmen, including one new English-as-a-second-language position

Some 52.5 percent of the budget's estimated revenue -- $111.9 million – will come from local property taxes. State aid will contribute 32.4 percent, or $69 million, and the remaining 15 percent will come from a variety of sources, including $7.5 million from the district's fund balance.

 

Besides funding district schools and programs, the budget will fund just under $35 million in payments to Albany's charter schools.

 

Community presentations about the 2013-14 budget proposal

The City School District of Albany welcomed the opportunity to meet with community organizations to discuss the 2013-14 budget proposal in advance of the May 21 vote. We particpated in several community meetings to share information and answer questions about the budget proposal. Here is a list of community budget presentations district representatives attended:

  • Thursday, April 18 -- Pine Hills Neighborhood Association, LaSalle School, 391 Western Ave., 7 p.m.

  • Monday, April 22 -- Second Avenue Neighborhood Association, Plumeri Community Room at Hoffman Park, 7 p.m.

  • Tuesday, April 23 -- South End Neighborhood Association, John A. Howe Library, 105 Schuyler St., 6 p.m.

  • Wednesday, May 1 -- Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations, Albany Public Library main branch, 6:30 p.m.

  • Monday, May 13 -- Albany High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association, Albany High School, 700 Washington Ave., 6:45 p.m.

  • Tuesday, May 14 -- Board of Education budget hearing, Delaware Community School, 43 Bertha St., 7 p.m.

  • Wednesday, May 15:

    • New Scotland Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association, New Scotland Elementary School, 369 New Scotland Ave., 6:30 p.m.

    • Uppper Washington Avenue Neighborhood Association, Montessori Magnet School, 65 Tremont St., 7 p.m.

  • Monday, May 20 -- Arbor Hill Neighborhood Association, Arbor Hill/West Hill Library, 148 Henry Johnson Blvd., 6 p.m.

Your voting location may have changed

Please note that your voting location may have changed this year. The district reduced the number of voting locations from 18 to 15 and the following locations were not used as polling sites:

  • Arbor Hill Elementary School

  • First Lutheran Church

  • Harriet Gibbons/Central Registration building

Visit our "Where do I vote?" section for more information about this year's voting locations, including a searchable street directory to find your polling place.

 

Uncertainty over state aid

The 2013-14 state budget that took effect April 1 included a funding increase of nearly $6 million for the district, a badly needed financial boost after four consecutive years of reduced or flat state aid. However, one day after announcing that increase in late March, State Ed recognized an error in its calculation of the district's charter-school transition aid. That error threatened as much as $4.2 million of the district's promised state aid.

 

State Ed said the error was due to a misreporting of the number of Albany students attending some of Albany's 10 charters schools.

 

In the end, State Ed's revised charter-school transition aid projection for 2013-14 restored nearly $1.3 million -- providing an opportunity to upgrade technology, hire new teachers in the critical first year of high school and restore many proposed cuts. But it still left the district with a gap of almost $3 million compared to the enacted 2013-14 state budget -- and almost $6 million compared to the level of state aid the district received in 2008-09.

 

The district’s 2013-14 budget proposal closed a shortfall of nearly $7 million from the current year. The district's anticipated revenue for next year is about $30 million less than it was in 2008-09 due to the compounded impact of declining state aid, increasing health and pension costs and increasing charter-school expenses.

 

Follow these links to view previous drafts of the budget during the development process:

Understanding New York state's 'tax cap'

It’s year two of New York state’s tax-levy cap, and yet despite all of its publicity, there is a lot of misinformation out there about it. Many school districts will come out with tax-levy hikes of more than 2 percent for 2013-14. Are they over the cap? Not necessarily.

 

The City School District of Albany's tax-levy limit for the 2013-14 budget is 3.36 percent, although the Board of Education will not set a tax-levy increase until it approves a budget proposal in April. The final tax rate for each property owner is determined during the summer after the New York State Office of Real Property Tax Services finalizes the percentages of local taxes to be paid by homeowners and business owners.

 

The district's tax-levy increases over the past four years have averaged 1.98 percent. That includes an increase of 1.5 percent last year, and zero increase the previous year.

 

Click on the icon at left to watch a short video to learn more about the tax levy limit law and why it isn’t really a “cap” at all.

 

Please call Director of Communications Ron Lesko at 475-6065 if you have any questions or would like additional information.

 

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