Highland faces $1.7 million budget deficit

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 3/27/24

In a fourth budget presentation, Highland’s Business Administrator Lindsay Eidel addressed the district’s $1,764,430 deficit in the proposed 2024-25 budget, again noting that the two main …

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Highland faces $1.7 million budget deficit


In a fourth budget presentation, Highland’s Business Administrator Lindsay Eidel addressed the district’s $1,764,430 deficit in the proposed 2024-25 budget, again noting that the two main revenue sources that support the school budget are school taxes and state aid. Just weeks ago the deficit stood at about $1.86 million but some interest the district is expected to receive brings that figure down to the $1.76 million.

Eidel explained the $1.76 million deficit pointing out that revenues for next year are $54,059,046 while expenses are calculated at $55,823,476.

Eidel said “Our revenues need to equal our expenses and that’s where this year becomes a little bit of a challenge for us. As many of you know we have received negative Foundation Aid from the state this year. We are hoping that Save Harmless will return, which will help us gain some of that revenue. We also used to receive a percent increase, which has also been taken away this year but we want to make sure that the budget’s financial plans supports our programs.”

Save Harmless is a school funding strategy that is designed to ensure that no districts receive less Foundation Aid than they did the previous year.

Superintendent Joel Freer reminded the public that they previously promised to look into five areas to see if they could find savings: in Administration, Supplies and Equipment, Mandated vs Non-mandated, Course Enrollments and Class Sizes to see if they can meet the $1.76 million deficit.

Eidel presented slides of areas under consideration that would save the district money.

District Wide Reductions: 1.0 District Data Administrator; 1.0 District Wide Head Custodian; 1.0 Custodian- Vacant; 4.0 Vacant Bus Driver Positions; Part-Time Technology Office Assistant; Bridge, PBIS, SAIL, TLC- Grant Funding; Supplies & Equipment for a Total Reduction of $526,130.

Elementary School Reductions: 1.0 Teacher- Attrition; 1.0 Special Education;.5 APE Teacher; 1.0 AIS Math Teacher; 1.0 AIS Reading Teacher; 1.0 Technology Teacher; 1.0 School Monitor- Attrition; 1.0 Teacher Aide; 3.0 Teaching Assistants for a Total Reduction of $677,300.

Secondary Reductions: 1.0 Social Studies Teacher; 1.0 ELA Teacher; 1.0 Technology Teacher; .5 Art Teacher; .5 Music Teacher; .8 World Language French; 2.0 Classroom Aides; 2.5 Teaching Assistants for a Total Reduction of $561,000.

These proposed reductions come to $1,764,430 and would balance the district’s draft budget for 2024-25 that presently stands at $54,059,046. Freer stressed that, “This is what we know today [but] should the Governor and the NYS Legislative bodies agree to reinstate funding in the upcoming budget talks, we will most certainly revisit this number at that time and make recommendations to the Board of Education accordingly.”

Eidel said she will be reviewing these proposed reductions, the Special AP placements and the BOCES final service request. She will also continue working on Special Education placements with Dr. Patrick Boyd, Director of Pupil Services, and with Peter Miller, Director of Operations and Management, monitoring fuel and gas costs for next year.

Eidel highlighted the two propositions that voters will see in May: the purchase of two propane buses for $357,360 and for establishing a new 10 year Capital Reserve Fund with a maximum cap of $10 million. This can only be used for updating infrastructure for Capital improvements. The creation of this fund allows the district to transfer $1,103,928 from an existing reserve fund that is soon to expire.

For clarification Superintendent Freer stressed that, “there is not $10 million that we are putting in a reserve. We are simply opening a bank account and transferring the old reserve money to that account. The Board of Education every single year determines at the end of the season if they are going to put any additional money into that reserve. This allows the board to save up to $10 million over 10 years and they can’t go over that but they don’t have to fund it to $10 million either; it’s just a bank account that allows us to go to that amount. I don’t want anyone thinking we have $10 million that we’re putting into a reserve today.”

Board President Alan Barone said the money put into this account helps to offset any future capital project and has made past projects tax neutral because of the reserves.

“A little bit of money that we put into that reserve is able to offset the overall cost of a proposition to the voters to make it tax neutral, so it’s a benefit to the taxpayers,” he said.

The board urges the public to contact their elected representatives to ask them to restore all of the state aid. A letter can be found at votervoice.net/NYSSBA/campaigns/111013/respond.