BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Before Briarcliff Manor residents go to vote on the Briarcliff School District’s budget on May 21, school board members are hoping to clear up a few items.
The Board of Education recently passed the proposed $47.4 million budget for the 2013-14 school year at its April 23 regular meeting. While the vote was unanimous, several residents and parents mentioned concerns with the budget as it compares to districts around Westchester County. Voters will decide on whether to approve the budget on May 21, but board members hope residents will take several things into consideration before voting.
The board recently issued a question and answer email to parents in the district. The entirety of the email can also be viewed on the Briarcliff School District website . Excerpts from the email are below:
QUESTION: Why did the Board make the decision to adopt a budget that exceeds the tax levy cap?
ANSWER: The Board made the decision to exceed the tax cap to ensure quality educational programming for our students. Without exceeding the tax cap, more cuts in spending would have been required and those cuts would include further reductions to programs and staff as our Administrators discussed during several budget presentations. Our principals and administrators all believe that additional cuts would significantly compromise the district’s instructional program after taking into account community members’ feedback. Based on the Administration’s recommendation and the Board of Education’s oversight of the budget process, we believe that it is in the best interest of the community financially and educationally, to maintain the programs we have in place and maintain reserves and fund balances at acceptable levels. This will allow the district to move from a budget process that relied on left over fund balances to be tax levy cap compliant and create a budget that can be sustainable in the long term.
QUESTION: So is it a misconception that the fund balance is small because the Board ‘overspent’ the budget by $1.4 million?
ANSWER: Yes. It is a misconception. The Board legally cannot spend more than the amount of the total budget approved by the community.
This question stems from how the district allocates the budget to over 600 different line item cost codes. Every year, there are budget transfers to accommodate changes that occur in a given year. Certain budget codes were so tightly allocated that a number of transfers were required during the year to provide the appropriate staffing pledged to the community. Make no mistake – the community approved this spending, and this year’s Board worked within that spending approval by rightsizing individual codes through appropriate transfers. This year, staffing costs that were not budgeted for were six new teaching assistants, teaching assistant salary increases, a .4 FTE MS Administrator and additional sections of science and math at the high school. These decisions were made based on factors such as student class selection, program delivery and scheduling, all of which were recommended by our Administration and Superintendent. The budget was reallocated to meet these demands of our educational program. Every year, certain codes in the school budget are underspent, and certain codes are overspent. That’s because a line item budget is a guideline to spending within the hundreds of codes that exist. Reconciliation is done through budget transfers.
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