At the Edge — the Council’s survey on school budget decisions

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 at 6:04 am by

Yesterday, the Council issued a report on its survey of superintendents on school budgeting issues.

The report, titled At the Edge, is available here.

A presentation summarizing the survey is here.

A key theme of the report is that although schools absorbed one of the biggest cuts in state aid ever in 2011, and now face operating under a property tax cap, this was not the first tough year.

State aid was also cut in 2010-11 and most aid was frozen in 2009-10.  At the same time, schools have had to absorb steep increases in pension and health insurance costs.

As a result, going forward, schools find it harder and harder to make cuts that don’t cut jobs or hurt student services.

A spokesman for Governor Cuomo responded to the report by saying, “The schools and school districts chose to make these reductions in the classroom rather than dip into their reserves, cut back on the bureaucracy or reduce the growing number of administrators.”

But the report plainly contradicts these claims.

Nearly 90 percent of superintendents are concerned by the extent to which their districts are already relying upon reserves to fund operating costs.  Without the reserves used this year, their districts would have had to cut spending by over 4 percent, raise taxes by an additional 7 percent, or adopt some combination of the two.

The report also shows that districts cut administrative positions more steeply than teaching jobs.  Superintendents reported eliminating an average of 7.5 percent of administrator positions in 2011-12, compared to 4.3 percent of their teaching staff.

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