State Mandates Put Pressure on District, Residents' Wallets

By Erika Mahoney

January 24, 2013 Updated Jan 24, 2013 at 9:47 AM EDT

Town of Union, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Next year's budget for the Union Endicott School District is expected to grow, but taxpayers' wallets could be doing just the opposite.

The final vote on the 2013-2014 budget isn't due until May 21, but school officials say they're already feeling the pressure from state mandates, which could force future cuts.

In the first budget workshop of the year, Superintendent Suzanne McLeod showed the school board and the community what the budget would cost if all current programs and positions were maintained.

Without cuts or reduction, McLeod proposed a $74.5 million budget, which would translate to a tax levy increase of 8.6 percent for U-E taxpayers.

But officials said Wednesday they hope to lower that percentage by May.

Still, there are challenges ahead, as state mandated benefits increase.

Health and dental is expected to increase 8 percent, social security is expected to increase 2 percent and workers compensation is expected to increase 8 percent.

But the biggest benefit increase comes as a result of a 42 percent jump in the teachers retirement system.

"The pensions increases are nothing that a school district can put off or balance," McLeod said. "We get a number for the teachers retirement system and the employee retirement's system and that's the number we must use."

McLeod said the increase in the teachers retirement system will cost the district nearly $1 million. She said this will greatly affect the budget and could make trimming necessary.

But because it's so early in the process, McLeod could not say what would be on the chopping block this spring.

McLeod said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday proposed special aid money to offset those increases.

As of today, she said the specifics of that aid remain unknown.

The next budget workshop is set for Feb. 6. A time and place has not been announced.