Frequently Asked Budget-Related Questions
1. Can we have "pay for play" athletics?
No. Education law is very specific. As a school district, we cannot charge students a fee to be on an athletic team. If the Sports Boosters funds an athletic team, they can ask for a donation from players to support the expenses involved with running a team. Students would not be excluded if they were not able to donate money.
2. Why are we purchasing new textbooks during this difficult economic time?
Our district receives a set amount of state aid for textbooks. This is separate from our regular state aid. With textbook aid, if we don’t use it, we lose it. Our textbooks are replaced on a schedule. We usually replace a textbook every 5 to 7 years.
3. Why don’t we sell advertising space on our buses, in our gyms and at our athletic fields?
Public schools are not-for-profit institutions. If we sell advertising space, we are venturing into commercialism. Other than "pouring rights", our Pepsi contract, we are forbidden by education law to seek financial support through advertisements.
4. Why can’t teachers "shop" for the best deals for supplies?
As a public school, we are bound by rules and regulations as to how we can purchase items. All purchases are made with a purchase order. Our supplies are put out for bid. We take the lowest bid. Even though we are able to get discounts through our vendors, the prices sometimes are higher than supply sales advertised through Walmart, Target, and Dollar General. In the commercial store world, these low prices are termed as "lost leaders". Stores will take a loss on these items in order to entice the consumer to come and purchase items at their store.
5. Why can’t you freeze everyone’s salaries?
We have negotiated contracts with all of our bargaining units. The contracts were negotiated in good faith and approved by all parties (the bargaining unit, Superintendent and the Board of Education). The Board of Education cannot decide on its own to freeze the wages of PCSD employees. This would need the agreement of all parties.
6. Can we save money by not hiring outside presenters for staff development days?
Yes and no. We use three main sources for our professional development for staff members: BOCES, general fund and grant money from Title IIA. When we purchase services from BOCES, we receive 85% of the cost back the following year in what is termed as "BOCES aid". In light of the reimbursement from BOCES, this is very inexpensive professional development. Title IIA funds is federal grant money we receive on a yearly basis. We can use the money from Title IIA for conference costs, outside presenters and substitutes for teachers to engage in professional development. If we were to not use our small amount of professional development money from the general fund this would be a savings to the district. We do use some of our own teachers as in-house trainers for specific professional development. Sometimes, we need to hire outside experts when our in-house trainers do not have the expertise or knowledge needed for specific professional development.
7. Would we save any money by reducing our lunch and breakfast programs?
No. Our lunch and breakfast programs are self-funded. There is no money used from the general fund for any food service program, including wages.
8. Could we save money by not getting new faculty ID tags every year?
No. Our current school photographer provides our ID tags free of charge.
9. How much would we save by discontinuing certain computer licenses (AIMS web, Share Point, Gizmo) used by teachers?
It depends. Computer software is purchased through various budgets including state-aided software, textbook, special education, BOCES, and grant funds. Most of the recurring costs for software licenses are paid through the state-aided software budget. This budget line is unique in that the district is only reimbursed for what it spends (up to a certain amount). In effect, this is a "use it or lose it" source of funding for our district. Eliminating or reducing the software expenditures will eliminate or reduce the corresponding state aid revenue. Applications purchased through BOCES are generally the only areas where we would realize a savings via the difference between the cost of the application and the corresponding BOCES aid reimbursement.
10. We spent a lot of money on our recent capital project? Could that money have been spent in better ways, such as our instructional programs?
In 2005 the district established a capital reserve fund knowing that our facilities were in need of improvement. Several members of the community spent countless hours evaluating those needs and determining the best course of action for the district. As stewards of the district’s assets the school board must, through approval from the community, maintain the district’s facilities much like a home owner replaces a roof, installs a new furnace or replaces flooring. With this in mind, energy-efficient boilers and new windows were installed at MAM and EJD, and roofs were replaced at EJD and JCB. The addition at EJD was built to better align our facilities with the state curriculum and allow students of similar developmental levels to attend the same school. In 2005, when the project scope was determined, Maroun Elementary was overcrowded, we were educating some middle school students in portable classrooms located adjacent to the EJD parking lot, and gym space was insufficient to accommodate our athletic and music programs. We were also educating certain students in very expensive BOCES programs as we did not have the appropriate facilities to accommodate their educational needs. Since the time our new facilities were open for use, the district has saved over $600,000 and is providing a better experience for those students through in-house programs.
When factoring in the reduction in costs attributable to BOCES programs and the enhanced aid provided through New York State (as more than 90% of project costs are funded by the state), the district realized a net savings as a result of the $41 million project approved by voters in 2006.
The $9 million project approved in 2008 addressed several concerns that were considered secondary at the time the first project’s scope was developed in 2005. Why did we choose to pursue this second project? Shortly after the $41 million project was approved by voters, the state announced the availability of EXCEL funds (Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning). These funds were made available for a short period of time for funding of projects related to education technology, health and safety, accessibility, physical capacity expansion or energy. Because these funds could be used to offset the local share of construction, we were able to perform additional improvements to our facilities without additional cost to local taxpayers.
11. Could the money used for these projects have been spent for instructional programs?
No. The funds the district receives from the state for this purpose are categorized as "Building Aid" and can only be used for school construction projects.
12. When will the property tax cap legislation proposed by the Governor impact school districts?
The tax cap legislation was implemented for the May 2012 budget vote.
13. What will be the criteria for "cost effective management of transportation" as required to receive maximum transportation aid starting in 2012-2013?
The Executive Budget bill language states:
Cost effective transportation management best practices shall include but need not be limited to:
1. Maintenance of a reasonable utilization ratio for buses;
2. Use of multiple year contracts for private vendor contracts;
3. No bus purchase made at higher than state contract price in the base year;
4. Early advertisement of new contracts:
5. Use of bus routing software where possible; and/or
6. Use of a statewide website to advertise for bids
14. The proposed change in Transportation Aid for bus purchases would require that the bus replaced have 120,000 miles and 10 years old; Are you sure that it states and instead of or ?
Yes, the proposal states the buses to be replaced would have mileage of 120,000 and 10 years old.