Members of the Rensselaer City School District Community,
You have seen our references to budgetary challenges since before we were affected by COVID-19. Our district has been losing money since 2012 for a variety of reasons. This has depleted the school’s fund balance (savings) and leaves RCSD “susceptible to fiscal stress” as we were designated earlier this year.
Our original strategy was to protect both the students and taxpayers by attempting to control costs and maximize revenues with the hope that NYS would provide additional funding to high needs districts like ours. Our district relies on state aid for 53% of our revenue. If NYS state aid was generous, we hoped to lose less every year and break even before the savings were gone. Now our aid is cut and hopes of generous aid in the next few years is gone. Without severe action, our district will be fiscally insolvent within 2 years.
This problem just became a fiscal emergency. Our first solution was to reduce expenses. Since the original budget, we have reduced $632,000 mostly through staff reductions. These changes will cause class sizes to increase from about 19 to about 27 in grades 3-8. Unfortunately, staff ratios in our district are already lean, so there are few bodies that we can reduce while still maintaining a safe environment.
The scary part of this aid reduction is that after those staff reductions, we estimate that it will still require a one-time 24.5% tax levy increase for the district to stop losing money. We understand that any tax increase will be difficult for our families at a time when many are hurting financially. Unfortunately, there is not enough money left in the bank to “kick the can down the road”, so the district will need to balance the budget now. We are going to need public support more than ever.
I know that this message will be the cause for concerns and anxiety. We plan to continue to put out more understandable information describing where we are, how we got here, and what our options are. There will be many questions to answer.
Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we work to provide answers and continue to seek solutions to this fiscal emergency.
Superintendent, Rensselaer City School District