BOARD INSIGHT: Board Excited to Adopt Superintendent Pero’s 2018-2019 Budget as Their Own

April 16 was a red-letter day in the Pittsford Central School District!

It was on that date that we voted to adopt Superintendent Pero’s proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year.  The vote was both unanimous and enthusiastic. Why, you may ask? Many reasons, probably best summarized by saying that the Superintendent’s budget delivered on every aspect of our Budget Guidelines. Additionally, it represented the culmination of months of preparation, analysis, and advocacy.

For our part, we reviewed and approved the aforementioned Guidelines, engaged administrators during four public budget workshops, and closely monitored negotiations in the state Senate and Assembly relative to the Governor’s budget. In fact, three members of our BOE joined District leaders in making multiple trips to Albany, advocating on behalf of our PCSD community.

The road to budget adoption is a bumpy one. From release of the Governor’s executive budget in early January to our recent BOE meeting, District administrators and business officials have examined every budget code and line item, diligently prepared to respond to numerous possible scenarios, and reported regularly to our Board and community. They offered clarity where Albany provided little.

On March 30, the “hurry up and wait” environment of the prior three months ended with passage of the state budget. With it came reams of raw data about “state aid runs” for PCSD, requiring scrutiny and analysis to determine exactly where we stood relative to many critical budgetary variables. Once this review was complete, Superintendent Pero presented his 2018-19 budget to our Board and our community, proudly sharing the following highlights:

  • A balanced base budget, under the tax cap, with no reduction in program or opportunities for our students

  • Demonstration of effective financial management, as evidenced by our ability to find efficiencies that result in a positive fund balance

  • Unprecedented financial incentives to support conversion to Full Day Kindergarten in 2018-19 school year

  • Clear confidence, as shared by the state Comptroller and the District’s internal and external auditors, in the District’s plan for long-term fiscal sustainability

This is an historic time for Pittsford schools. As a community – and with fidelity to our District Values, Mission, and Vision – we are in a position for the first time to boast a true K-12 experience for all our students. Bringing to our youngest learners the opportunity to enjoy the same educational experience as their counterparts across the state is cause for celebration. And the inclusion of Full Day Kindergarten fills a major void in our District’s otherwise comprehensive curriculum offerings.

We are blessed to represent a community that understands and supports the best possible educational experience for our children. As we know well, that experience does not come without significant stakeholder investment. To that end, our stakeholders have joined District leaders working tirelessly to secure additional state funding that will make FDK a reality in Pittsford.

Specifically, through our joint advocacy efforts, PCSD has received $1.3 million in aid to convert from half-day to Full-Day Kindergarten; these moneys will be paid out over three years. Senator Rich Funke has secured an additional $200,000 in building aid to support FDK.

Never before in the state’s history has such a financial incentive been offered to a school district. It’s important to remember also that the state’s few remaining districts without FDK must take advantage of the three-year Conversion Aid incentive beginning with either the 2018-19 or 2019-20 school year. There’s no way to know whether the state will extend a similar offer in the future. Combine that with political uncertainty in Albany, and the decision to act now represented the prudent course.

Going forward, FDK costs will represent approximately 1% of the District’s annual operating budget. We remain confident in our District’s ability to identify efficiencies to close that gap – ensuring that those efficiencies are as far away from the classroom as possible. Our confidence is based on a few factors:

  • Historically sound management of reserves, as confirmed by the NYS Comptroller’s Office

  • Regular review and affirmation of the District’s business operations from internal and external auditors

  • The District’s Aa1 credit rating (the highest rating possible for a school district)

In closing, this is truly an exciting time for Pittsford schools. The retention of academic and extracurricular programming, now combined with the infusion of Full Day Kindergarten to support our youngest learners, represents the next step toward fulfillment of our District Vision in which every Pittsford student will have access to personalized opportunities, and acquire skills necessary to meet their potential and fulfill their dreams.