YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Creating a budget that keeps taxpayers happy while maintaining educational programs presents a struggle for the Yorktown Central School District, but Superintendent Ralph Napolitano said if it comes down to one or the other, he knows where he will always lean.
"The child is at the center of everything we do," he said at Monday night's Board of Education meeting.
The upcoming 2013-14 budget season will be especially difficult for the district, Napolitano said, as unfunded mandates continue to pour in and pension and health insurance costs continue to rise.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Tom Cole said the district is expected to exceed a 2 percent property tax levy increase because the district's pension costs will rise between $1.8 million and $2.2 million in 2013-14. In last year's budget, a 2 percent tax levy increase would have been $1.4 million.
"One line item in a budget of 200 line items raises our tax cap," said Cole, adding that the pension costs are unsustainable.
Since the district operated about $908,000 under the levy cap in 2012-13, it will be allowed to carry that amount over to use in this year's budget. Coupled with the exemptions for the increased pension contributions, the district can raise the levy up to 4.69 percent and still be "under" the cap, Cole said.
District officials said forced curriculum changes, a $300,000 reduction in state aid and increased tax certioraris have also contributed to the district's financial woes. Cole said the district has lost about $100,000 in certioraris alone in 2012-13.
“This is not a unique problem," Napolitano said about Yorktown's struggles. "The math doesn’t work. You can’t argue with numbers.”
"Readily identifiable" safety procedures in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting will also be added to the 2013-14 budget, Cole said. The specifics will be discussed at future budget hearings.
At least one silver lining for the district is the added revenue of the French Hill School. Currently the rented-out building is bringing in around $225,000, which is enough to keep it self-sustaining. But Cole said the district is aggressively targeting more tenants and could generate up to $180,000 of revenue for Yorktown.