CHATEAUGAY –– Despite continuing uncertainties about the effect of the COVID-19 virus on state funding, the Chateaugay Central School Board of Education voted Tuesday to adopt a 2020-21 budget that reduces district spending by about $334,000.
The $13.8 million spending plan is largely unchanged from the preliminary budget unveiled in March, district budget officer Jackie Cowan told the school board.
The budget plan calls for an increase in the tax levy of 1.32% –– the limit the district can raise the levy under the state-imposed tax cap, Cowan said. The proposed levy would be about $2.9 million, up roughly $38,000 from the current year’s levy.
The district was able to reduce its planned spending because of a reduction in BOCES charges for the coming year and the retirement of one of the district’s bonds, Cowan noted. The current year’s budget set spending at $14.1 million.
The board voted to approve the budget despite concerns that it could be facing a reduction in state aid of as much as 20%. The budget projects the district will receive about $6.6 million in state foundation aid - money the district can use essentially as it sees fit - but Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said state aid to school districts could be cut dramatically as the state grapples with a budget deficit estimated to be as much as $15 billion because of shortfalls stemming in part from the loss of sales and income tax revenues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo has said he will review the state’s financial status at the end of four “measurement periods,” at which time he will determine if cuts to the amount of aid distributed to municipalities and school districts will be made. The first of those four periods ended April 30, but the state has not yet released its decision on possible cuts, Cowan said.
Cowan said the district’s financial advisor recommended not making any spending cuts in the budget in anticipation of the loss of state aid. If the money is removed from the budget, it can’t be added back in at a later time if the federal government comes through with money it has said will cover state cuts, she said.
If the state reduces its aid and the federal money doesn’t arrive, or is less than is needed, “We can always cut midyear if we have to,” she said.
Those cuts could include positions, she noted.
The uncertainty facing not just Chateaugay but other school districts and municipalities statewide means there may be “some scary times ahead,” said school board President Tony Martin
The district will hold a virtual public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on June 1. District residents will have the final say on the spending plan during the annual budget vote, held this year on June 9 rather than its usual mid-May date because of the virus.