The Levittown School District revealed its budget plan for the 2012-13 school year at a planning session Wednesday night.
In the face of a 2 percent cap on the district’s ability to raise the tax levy, the budget proposes a 4 percent decrease from 2011-12 budget levels, to a sum of $189,996,581. That decrease was arrived at as a result of the district preparing a "zero-sum budget" or "rollover budget.” The district asked each department how much money they would need to operate the same way they operated in 2011-12. Once they got numbers from everyone, they arrived at the 4 percent decrease.
"We looked at what our current programs are, and what it would cost us to simply roll the budget over, to simply take everything we had this year and have it again next year," said Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Grossane. "In doing that, [we were] very realistic with the cost projections."
There were two notable reasons for the decrease in budget. The district generally budgets 4 percent each year for fund balance, which is held for the following year's budget. In the past, they would allocate excess money past 4 percent towards that fund balance. This year, due to the levy restrictions, they are unable to do that.
"If you look at the way the budget is funded, there’s a huge dependency on fund balance," said Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Mark Flower. "By us tightening that budget, we’re growing less dependent on that fund balance."
What that means is that the district will eventually have to start tapping into reserve funds stored in previous years to cover expenses. Grossane and Flower don't anticipate using reserve funds this year, but they admitted it could be a possibility next year. Those reserves can't be re-stocked in the current climate, either.
"When the district was able to ask for more than two percent, they were able to take money and put it in reserve," said Grossane. "They had their rainy day funds. The rainy day is here."
The other notable change within the budget was in salaries, which sees a proposed decrease in just over $1.5 million. The reduction does not equate to jobs lost, according to Grossane; rather, it is a way of tightening a portion of the budget that was over-funded.
“We’re being far more precise with our projection,” he said. “Last year, that code was over-funded. Our actual expenditure in that budget is less than what that number was.”
The salary number takes state-mandated STEP raises into account. “What we did was take our actual expenditures, roll them up with everyone’s STEP increase, and that’s what we needed to cover it,” Grossane said.
While the budget takes the salaries of every teacher into account, Grossane said there still could be layoffs if enrollment declines. There could also be layoffs at the high school level if certain elective classes fail to reach a minimum enrollment requirement of 17. If that happens, students scheduled for those classes will be placed in their second or third elective choice.
To see a copy of Assistant Superintendent Flower's presentation given Wednesday night, with detailed budget and tax levy numbers, click here. A follow-up article explaining the tax levy and other aspects of the budget will run on Monday.