South Orangetown Central School District

2020-2021 Budget FAQ

What has this year’s budget development process looked like?
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the District’s financial outlook?
Why is the proposed tax levy increase above 2%?
When is the budget vote and how has Covid-19 pandemic impacted the budget approval process?
What happens if voters reject the budget?

What has this year’s budget development process looked like?

The budget development process takes a parallel approach to our strategic planning, using financial analyses; data-informed decision-making related to enrollment projections; review of programmatic needs and school schedules; and, a close eye on how the economic and political landscape impacts our school community. We synchronize our administrative efforts to ensure effective and efficient resource allocation for meeting near- and long-term goals.
SOCSD has been forward-thinking in terms of positioning itself to reimagine and plan for adjustments to our instructional program and student support services. Our Board of Education and Administrative Team recognized the need for flexibility in the use of existing resources to respond to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Looking ahead, we are prepared to repurpose resources to best meet evolving needs of our students and staff.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the District’s financial outlook?

In developing the 2020-2021 school budget, we took a conservative approach to budgeting our revenues given the uncertainty of State funding to public schools. The preliminary budget also maintains our total fund balance strategy in terms of our reserves and unassigned fund balance. We know our fund equity position is critical to maintaining long-term financial stability and avoiding year-to-year volatility. However, we are very cognizant of the economic landscape and the pressures on our community. The proposed budget represents a 2.2% spending increase, reflecting a deliberate approach to stepping down our year-to-year increase in annual spending (last year, the increase was 3.2%).

In order to arrive at the $96.8 million total, the Administrative Team was directed to “sharpen their pencils” and critically scrutinize the resources required for next year. No new requests for additional funding above 2019-2020 levels were honored; instead, our team individually and collectively repurposed existing funding in alignment with our strategic goals.

Given the possibility that school districts may bear financial responsibility for implementing reopening plans that include social distancing, precautionary measures to prevent Covid-19 transmission, and other adjustments to a “new normal” for instruction and daily operations, we will:

  • Continue food services for South Orangetown children ages 18 and under during the mandated closure period;
  • Implement a 1:1 technology program at the elementary and middle schools to support the continued deployment of devices issued to K-8 students during the school closure;
  • Continue master planning efforts in order to review our school buildings’ short- and long-term infrastructure and critical system needs, with consideration of physical space constraints associated with social distancing in classrooms and common areas of our school buildings;
  • Continue the expansion of our Comprehensive District-Wide Safety Plan to include a pandemic plan and update Board policies pertaining to school safety in preparation for reopening;
  • Review our current compliance plans and protocols associated with cleaning and sanitizing our schools, school health services, and facilities use;
  • Update staff training programs related to proper hygiene protocols and CDC guidelines for avoiding an outbreak such as Covid-19;
  • Review contractual obligations to ensure a smooth transition from mandated school closure to reopening; and,
  • Continue to seek federal and/or state grants to offset expenses.

Why is the proposed tax levy increase above 2%?

The primary factor driving the proposed 2.82% tax levy increase is that the tax levy limit formula allows for capital exclusions which reflect the year-over-year change in capital spending from previously budgeted funds, but not from capital reserves or fund balance. Due to the the capital exclusions, the proposed 2.82% tax levy increase remains within the tax cap.

 When is the budget vote and how has Covid-19 pandemic impacted the budget approval process?

The Board of Education is scheduled to adopt the 2020-2021 Proposed Budget at its May 7 Board of Education meeting. A public hearing is scheduled for June 2, 2020, leading up to the Uniform Statewide Vote and Election on June 9, 2020, by absentee ballot only. Due to the Governor’s Order, the vote and election will strictly follow an absentee ballot process.

What happens if voters reject the budget?

If voters do not approve the proposed budget, the Board of Education may put forward the same or a revised budget for a second vote OR adopt a contingency budget with a tax levy no greater than what was levied last year. If voters reject the spending plan twice, SOCSD must adopt a contingency budget which would require $2.295 million in cuts. As a result, the following reductions may be required: reduction in teaching staff, thereby increasing class-size, loss of modified sports, loss of certain extracurricular programs, loss of occupational education services, per education law mandated removal of certain equipment, community use of facilities without a charge, removal of capital projects not deemed health and safety, reduction in instructional supplies, conferences/memberships, support staff, community services and certain administrative costs.