An official statement was issued Friday (March 6) on the fiscal health of Cortland City School District budget, as well as an outlook on the 2020-21 budget which has become increasingly difficult to balance.
Reasons for this include annual rising health care costs and growing contractual obligations, as well as a substantial hike in the amount of out-of-district placements. Another factor is a change in the formula used by the states to distribute financial aid, which often doesn’t keep up with expense increases in small districts like Cortland.
As a result, the district’s been forced to use its reserve fund to cover spending gaps since the 2015-16 school year, contributing to its status as one of five districts in the state with ‘moderate fiscal stress,’ according to the state comptroller.
“Operating costs are exceeding our revenue and our savings accounts are getting depleted,” said the district’s press release. “Our revenues are made up of 60% state aid and 35.4% property taxes — that state aid amount is determined by a NYS formula that is out of our control.”
The district projects next year’s tax levy limit to be 1%, which the Board of Education has indicated it does not want to have to exceed.
Over the past five years, the average tax increase has been 1.23%.
Officials say they’ll look to improve on the district’s fiscal situation by looking at programming and cutting “costs where it will least affect students.”
They’ll also be looking at retirements and consider not backfilling certain positions.
More below from the press release:
“Each year we have been depleting our savings accounts to pay for our operating expenses. For example, in 2015-2016 school year, we allocated $5 million dollars from our savings to balance the budget. In 2017-2018 we allocated $2.3 million and in 2019-2020 with the two elementary schools closing we were able to reduce this allocation to $764,000.
Had we not closed both schools we would have needed to allocate $3 million from our savings. Like with any savings account, our reserves are being depleted due to our annual allocations to balance our expenses with revenues.
The goal of the 2020-2021 school year is that we again reduce our allocation of reserves.”