BALLSTON SPA – The Ballston Spa Central School District Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the district’s proposed $90.34 million 2017-18 school budget during Wednesday’s regular business meeting.
The proposed $90.34 million budget would be a 2.1 percent increase over the current year’s budget if approved by voters. The budget calls for a 2.9 percent tax levy increase, for a total tax levy of $48.99 million.
Superintendent Joseph Dragone estimated the tax levy increase would cause an average tax rate increase of 0.6 percent for property owners, which would add approximately $22 to the average tax payment for a home with an assessed property value of $225,000. The district sets the final tax rates in August.
In addition to the tax levy, the balance of the budget will be made up of $29.55 million in state aid, $1 million from the district’s fund balance and $10.8 million from other sources such as Payment in Lieu of Tax Agreements and reimbursements from programs.
The budget maintains or enhances programs and staff at their current levels, including the restoration of several positions that were left vacant for budgetary reasons following staff retirements. The positions include one full-time orchestra teacher, one high school technology teacher and three instructional teacher leader positions.
The budget also calls for the addition of one part-time literary position at the middle school. The additional positions will be partially funded through the reallocation of resources from the elimination of a fourth-grade section at Milton Terrace Elementary School due to enrollment. The remainder will cost the district approximately $195,000.
Two factors driving the budget increase are the rising cost of healthcare for the district and the continued loss of property value for the GlobalFoundries plant.
The district will pay an additional $1.19 million for health insurance next school year, for a total cost of $14.88 million. The 8.7 percent increase in healthcare costs account for more than half of the school budget increase.
While insurance costs continue to rise, the school district will continue to lose revenue from the PILOT agreement with GlobalFoundries. The site has lost property value year over year and is expected to fall to an estimated total value of $596.25 million in 2018. This represents a $35.08 million total loss in property value from when it was first constructed.
The projected loss in property value for 2018 will result in a $745,000 loss in tax revenue for the school district. Throughout the budget process, Dragone has warned the continued loss in value in the GlobalFoundries plant will present budgetary challenges for the school district for the foreseeable future. The property is projected to continue to lose value until 2031, when it is expected to reach a final assessed value of $165.62 million.
Dragone reviewed the budget for the board once more on Wednesday before the school board’s unanimous vote to adopt the proposed budget.
“Big picture, we’re balanced, we’re in good shape, we have all of the proposals that we wanted in there, we maintain our work, we support all of the budget goals,” Dragone said at the conclusion of his presentation. “As I said before at the first meeting in March, from a program side and a budget side it is strong in supporting the work that we do.”
Following the meeting Board of Education President Kevin Schaefer expressed his support for the budget.
“[The budget] takes the financial aspects of the tax payers into consideration, it boosts our program by having more full time teachers in areas that we definitely need to have them,” Schaefer said. “I think it is a very sound and pleasing budget. Plus, it takes into consideration planning for the future as we continue to lose that help from GlobalFoundries.”
A public hearing on the proposed 2017-18 school budget will be held May 3 at 6:30 p.m. The statewide school budget vote will take place May 16, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.