The Plattsburgh Press-Republican has a fascinating story in this morning’s paper, pointing to the fact that schools in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties used about $24.7 million dollars in cash reserves to pay for next year’s budgets.
The problem is that those fund balances will be tapped out by the end of 2014 or, in the case of some schools, by 2015. The question, of course, is what happens then? This from Ashleigh Livingston’s article:
“If we continue to use $1.5 million in fund balance in 2013-14 and 2014-15, our unrestricted fund balance will be completely gone,” said Business Administrator Timothy Whipple.
“The question will become, ‘How do we deal with trying to find $1.5 million after the fund balance is all gone and you can only raise property taxes by 2 percent?’ Basically, we are looking at three years until we will be facing a huge budget gap,” he said.
The Press-Republican article makes an interesting point. Schools are already being squeezed — schools in Clinton County alone will cut roughly 100 staff positions next year — but these fund balances may be disguising the magnitude of the problem.
Once they’re tapped out, with the property tax cap in place, even bigger deficits could open up.
The bigger question, of course, is what New York state and local school boards will do in the meantime. Mandate reform? District mergers?
How do you think your district should plan for the next wave of austerity?