Excellence in Education
2011 - 2012  


2011-2012 Budget Development Message

January 26, 2011

The 2011-2012 state aid picture for Cato-Meridian is projected to be no greater than last year’s aid. While Governor Cuomo has not yet released his proposed budget, school districts all across the state anticipate that it will include another substantial cut in aid to education. In addition to a reduction in state aid, schools will have to absorb the loss of federal revenue made available the last two years through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The loss of state aid and these ARRA funds have put a strain on the district’s financial resources but careful planning last year in preparation for leaner times, and a continued fiscally conservative approach to spending will allow the school’s administration to prepare a budget for the 2011-2012 school year that maintains our educational and extra-curricular programs while being responsible to the local taxpayers.

Since it is still unclear how long New York’s economic downturn will last, schools including Cato-Meridian are not only preparing budgets year-to-year, but also engaging in long range planning. As schools consider future revenue projections, they are forced to deal with the prospect that for the foreseeable future they will need to do more with less.

Improving student achievement, meeting higher benchmarks required by No Child Left Behind, and Race To The Top, as well as implementing the new State Common Core Standards will undoubtedly challenge the district’s ingenuity and resourcefulness, but the district is poised to face the anticipated funding shortfall about as well as any rural school can.

It is almost certain that in order to absorb the impact of diminishing state aid, we will have to dip deeper into the district’s financial reserves than we would like, especially if we are to continue to keep our educational programs intact with as little impact as possible on our students. Starting with the current budget, the fund balance used to offset the tax levy this year was doubled from 200,000 dollars to 400,000 dollars. Another 100,000 dollars is being used from the Employment Reserve. The good news is that the district has the reserves to dull the impact caused by the loss of state aid dollars and to stave off the need to make dire decisions concerning educational programs and staffing levels. The bad news is that the more we have to rely on these reserves year-to-year, the faster they will be used up.

Across the state, school districts that have not been able to sustain good reserves in the good years are now in the predicament which may require them in these leaner years to rapidly drain their reserves. About one hundred thirty districts in New York State are now faced with this prospect and some are only months away from insolvency. Fortunately, Cato-Meridian is not one of those districts, but the bleak revenue picture going forward will require that the district rely more heavily on its reserves in preparation of its budgets for the next few years.

Our goal during these challenging times remains the same. We are committed to delivering a high quality education that is both responsive to the needs of students and reasonable to taxpayers.

Over the next few months, the budget process will be a regular part of the agenda at Board of Education meetings. Additionally, information relevant to the budget building process will be posted online on the school’s website (www.catomeridian.org). The public hearing on the proposed 2011-2012 school budget will be held on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

Best Regards,

W. Noel Patterson

Superintendent of Schools

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