2020-2021 Budget

On June 8, Governor Cuomo extended the deadline for mail-in ballots for the budget vote and school board election.

  • Ballots that are hand-delivered or placed in the ballot box will not be accepted  after 5 p.m. on June 9, 2020.
  • Ballot boxes for absentee ballots will be closed at 5 p.m. on June 9.
  • Absentee ballots may be accepted by mail only no later than 5 p.m. on June 16, 2020.

Board approves $204.6 million spending plan
Budget Hearing May 27; Residents will vote on June 9
On Wednesday, June 20, the Schenectady City School District Board of Education approved a $204,653,930 spending plan for the 2020-2021 School Year. This represents a $2.2 million or 1.1 percent increase over the current year.  Under the plan, the tax levy will remain unchanged and there will be no employee layoffs.  Residents will vote on the plan by absentee ballot only.  Ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on June 9.
District officials were able to close the budget deficit by instituting a hiring freeze, not filling recently vacated positions and by reducing the number of administrative positions through a restructuring of the Office of Curriculum and Instruction. 
“While looking for less costly ways of operating and contemplating the reduction of items, positions and services, we felt it was important to keep to our vision, values and goals outlined in the Strategic Plan, at the forefront of all decisions," said Acting Superintendent Dr. Aaron Bochniak. "As a district we must continue our work, but operate effectively and more efficiently while keeping our focus on students and teaching and learning. The basic tenets of the proposal keep our focus on the values of equity, collaboration and learning.” 


As part of the restructuring, the Office of Educational Equity and Instructional Support will be created to  replace the  Office of Curriculum and Instruction. The new department will be led by a District Director of Educational Equity and Instructional Support and include three assistant directors, each with specific responsibilities including culturally responsive education, ENL, staff development, early literacy, and assessments. This restructuring accounts for the reduction of six full-time equivalent (FTE) administrators who will fill other essential positions recently vacated through attrition.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the state budget, developing the 2020-2021 Budget was challenging. In addition to not receiving any increase in Foundation Aid, school budgets are being crafted without knowing if aid will be reduced further and if so, by how much. The Enacted New York State Budget authorizes the state to review its revenue and expenses on an ongoing basis so it can determine its financial state. This will be done in three measurement periods that include April, May/June and July through December. The state reserves the right, during these periods, to reduce aid to schools.
This proposed spending plan was developed with information that was available at the time and in order to meet mailing and notification deadlines before the statewide election and vote date of June 9.
Since the proposal carries no property tax levy increase, a simple majority (50 percent plus one vote) is needed for approval.

A budget hearing will be held on May 27 at 7 p.m.
Absentee ballots will be mailed to qualified voters on the most recent years' poll lists. Anyone who does not receive an absentee ballot should contact Martha Morris, clerk of the board at [email protected]. Ballots should be mailed in the envelope provided or can be dropped in one of the ballot boxes at the following locations:

  • Keane Elementary School
  • Martin Luther King Jr Elementary School
  • Central Office Location at Mont Pleasant Middle School
  • Schenectady High School
  • Van Corlaer Elementary School
  • Woodlawn Elementary School
  • Yates Elementary School

May 13 Budget Update


On May 13, Aaron Bochniak, acting superintendent, and Kimberly Lewis, district director of business and finance, presented an update on 2020-2021 Budget development.  Since the district relies heavily on Foundation Aid and does not know how much it will be reduced, budget planning and proposals provide for a range of cuts from $2.4 million through $7.5 million.   We won’t know exactly how much aid will be reduced until Governor Cuomo releases new state aid runs.  In the interim, a budget must be developed and adopted by the board of education on May 20.  The budget vote will be held June 9.

Dr. Bochniak highlighted key points in the proposal to the board.  While looking for less costly ways of operating and contemplating the reduction of items, positions and services, he stressed that it was important to keep to our vision, values and goals outlined in the Strategic Plan, at the forefront of all decisions.  He said that the challenge is to find a way to continue our work, but to operate effectively and more efficiently while keeping our focus on students and teaching and learning.   The basic tenets of the proposal keep our focus on the values of equity, collaboration and learning. 

The proposal (at the first level of $2.4 million) call for leaving some vacant positions unfilled and re-organizing the Office of Curriculum and Instruction (OCI).  With this plan, we would reduce staffing by seven positions (five administrative), but without any staff layoffs.  

This would mean that some staff in OCI would be serving the district in other capacities, such as vacancies created by retirements or resignations.   The redesign of OCI would include:

  • One district director
  •  Two assistance directors
  •  Coaches
  •  Support Staff

They would be responsible for:

  • Curriculum and Leadership Support

  • Culturally Responsive Education

  • Progress Monitoring

  • Professional Development

  • Instructional Programs

  • Instructional Coaching

  • Assessments

  • After School and Summer Programs

This would require the support or teachers and related service providers across the district.  It will also require us to find alternative ways of accomplishing some things.

The proposal also includes:

  • Hiring Freeze

  • Not Backfilling 12.6 vacant positions ($600K)\

  • Reduction in Summer Program Spending ($275K)

  • Reduction in  Professional Development  ($275K)

  • Decrease in Software & Database Subscriptions ($100K)

Again, with this proposal, there would be no staff layoffs.

Efforts have been around exploring a wide variety of options, and thinking creatively, to ensure our work can be done in different ways in order to avoid any lay-offs. 

If our  state aid reduction escalates to the $5 million to $7.5 million range, it is likely that we will need to eliminate multiple positions.  Those positions have not yet been identified.   The continuum with potential reductions is included on the chart in the presentation. 

If state aid runs become available prior to the May 20 board meeting, the proposal will be modified as needed.  

Dr. Bochniak will present a proposal, based on all the information that we have on May 20, to the board of education.  The board will need to adopt a budget plan on May 20  in order for the district  to meet notification requirements prior to the June 9 vote.   The budget hearing is scheduled for May 27. 

May 06 Budget Update

Budget vote will be held on June 9 by absentee ballot only.  Ballots will be sent to registered voters on last year's poll list.  Anyone who is a qualified voter who does not receive a ballot can request one by contacting Martha Morris, clerk of the board at [email protected]


May 5:    Hiring freeze
May 13:  Proposed Budget
May 20:  Board Approves Budget
May 27:  Public Hearing on Budget
June 09: Budget Vote and Board Election


The projected budget gap for 2020-21 is $2.6 million.
This assumes no increase in the tax levy and no use of appropriated fund balance.

At this time, there are still unknowns regarding how much state aid will be reduced.  We expected to have more information on May 8.   May 13 was added to the board of education meeting calendar for a budget proposal presentation.

Since we do not know how much our aid with be further cut, we don't know exactly what the gap will be.  Therefore, we are planning for three different scenarios of cuts beginning with a cut of $2.5 million. 

The first level is to cut $2.5 million.  With this, we would make between 20 and 30 reductions in personnel.  The goal with this level is to avoid personnel cuts and layoffs.  The reductions would be in positions, not laying people off.  This would be done by not filling a vacancy that comes up.  We would be creative in our approach with how positions are filled and how work can be done if we don't fill a vacant position.  There would need to be reductions in other areas such as professional development, software, contractual services and printing and printing supplies.

The second scenario is if we need to cut $5 million. The more we need to cut, the more likely that there will need to be some and layoffs.   We would need to reduce our personnel between 60 and 70.  This first be done by using the above strategy of not filling vacant positions.  When we get to cuts and layoffs, our goal would be to cut farthest away from the students.  In addition to personnel, we would cut or reduce professional development, software, contractual service and printing/supplies.

The third scenario is if we need to cut $7.5 million.  At this level of cuts, we would definitely be looking at cutting and laying off personnel.  We would need to reduce personnel by 80 and 100.  This would first be done using the strategies in the first two level of cuts.  

See chart on page 5 of the presentation.

Fiscal Strategies and Next Steps

Appropriate fund balance - we have done a good analysis and project that there will be a surplus.  This is because there are costs that we planned for but are not incurring this year.  With a surplus, we can replenish reserves.  The district director of business and finance will make a recommendation about monies to put in different reserve accounts. 

The budget will include using appropriating fund balance.  One strategy is to use fund balance to offset additional state aid reductions.  It is a strategy that is appropriate for us to do and will allow us to have a sound financial position going forward.   We expect to have at least $2 million that we can use to offset the state aid cut.

If we don't have the information that we need from the state by May 20, we will have to make our best guess about the additional reduction going forward.  We can't push adopting the budget beyond May 20.


Change to the Budget Picture

Due to the impact that COVID-19 has had on the state, the budget situation has changed dramatically.  

New York State schools are not receiving any increase in Foundation Aid for 2020-21.  That changes the landscape and our planning.  

With  no increase in Foundation Aid, we have a $4.6 million budget deficit.
Kimberly Lewis, District Director of Business and Finance stressed, "while we can’t ignore it, there is no need to panic."  She noted that the district has  done a good job building toward financial stability and is well-positioned to handle the challenge.  
Among the options in the toolbox that can help close the gap, without creating job or program cuts, are:
Using reserves 
Increasing the tax levy  (We have been committed to decreasing the levy over the last few years.)
Tightening our spending
Leveraging the current year budget
Utilizing other things like Smart Schools

At this time, the tax cap would be 2.6% (the most we can increase levy with a simple majority). This can change.  There are many variables that can impact what our tax cap calculation will be.
The governor did provide an executive order that delays school board elections and the budget vote until at least June 1.  
Other pieces to state aid picture
Possibility of state aid reduction next year.
State aid runs show $5.7 million reduction for “pandemic adjustment.”  Another line of $5.7 million for federal restoration.  Is this the stimulus … keeping our aid flat?  We’ve not been able to dive into this yet.
If there are mid-year reductions in aid - we would have to plan carefully regarding how to handle.  
There are a number of things we are still looking to refine.
Where do we go from here

Now that we have a sense of where we stand in terms of Foundation Aid, we have the pieces for how to build the budget for next year.
More than $12 million worth of budget proposals were submitted for next year.  Many good ideas on how we can improve with additional money.  Some of these are still really important.  Administrators are identifying what is necessary and non-negotiable.  In this case of new things to be added, we will need to find something to offset.
Administrators are re-engaged in the process - looking at scenarios.  Looking at the items that make up the budget and assessing them.  Asking - What things can be removed from the budget?  
We need to be cautious as this will be more than a one-year event. 
We don’t know what the “new normal” is.  We don’t know how much is permanent and how much is temporary.  We have to plan for the worst but hope for the best.
State-wide, all things are going to be changing – everyone is looking at things differently.  
Dr. Aaron Bochniak pointed out that we all are learning and doing things a little differently.  We are making connections with kids in ways we’ve not done before.  He stressed, however, that nothing can replace the  interaction between teacher and student.



The Governor's education proposal would result in a $2.5 million increase in Foundation Aid, the district's primary source of revenue.  When applying this to the projected gap of $6.2 million, the adjusted projected gap is $3.7 million.

 (JANUARY 08 2020)

Rollover budget is our starting point assuming no changes to programming, Foundation Aid, tax levy or use of fund balance.

The projected gap is $6.2 million.  This is preliminary based on the information that we currently have.  This will become more precise as we move through budget development


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