District’s financial outlook continues to improve
As the 2016-17 school year draws to a close, LaFayette Central School District administrators and Board of Education members are reflecting on the district’s recent fiscal strides.
This year, the district’s annual school budget vote, which was put in front of voters in May, had an 85 percent passing rate – possibly the highest in the district’s history-– and in January the district was removed from the New York State Comptroller’s fiscal stress list.
“These are great district achievements,” said LaFayette CSD Superintendent Laura Lavine. “This is the the result of sound financial planning and outstanding collaboration among various stakeholders including the Board of Education, administration and staff members, including our Community Budget Committee.”
When comparing budget passage rates among the more than twenty K-12 school districts under the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES umbrella, LaFayette’s budget approval rate of 85 percent was among the top. The $18,735,315 budget received 196 “yes” votes and 36 “no” votes. This was particularly noteworthy because also on the ballot were propositions for a Capital Project and purchase of buses. The statewide average of voters saying, “Yes” was 77%.
Superintendent Lavine said these data reflect the community’s acknowledgment and support of the district’s strong financial planning. “This cooperation positions our students for success,” she said. “It provides them with the resources they need to perform successfully in school and after graduation.”
Throughout the last couple of years, district officials have called upon community members to help build a balanced budget for LaFayette CSD. Comprised of volunteers, students, faculty, staff and administration, the LaFayette Community Budget Committee usually meets three or four times before the school district’s budget is finalized and submitted to the Board of Education members for acceptance. The committee annually meets with district officials to discuss each school’s needs and how they can responsibly be met.
LaFayette CSD includes funding for C. Grant Grimshaw Elementary School, Onondaga Nation School, LaFayette Junior/Senior High School and Big Picture School. The Onondaga Nation School budget is managed separately because, as a designated Native American school, it receives separate funding from New York state for student resources and transportation.
Throughout the school year, external auditing groups review the district’s revenue and expenditures to ensure the district is following its budget proposal. This helps to ensure sound fiscal planning by providing additional feedback about the district’s financial practices including building up the district’s cash reserves, Superintendent Lavine said.
In 2013, LaFayette CSD’s year-end fund balance carried a deficit of $2 million dollars and its cash position was low. The following year, the district’s year-end balance increased to 1.5 percent – an improvement, but not the district’s goal of 4 percent of the upcoming school year’s budget, which is the maximum retainable amount permitted by law.
Superintendent Lavine said she and Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Tiffany Turner continued to focus on improving the district’s cash flow. Subsequently, in 2015, the district’s year-end balance increased to 2.4 percent, its cash position increased and its fiscal outlook through the Comptroller’s report was downgraded from “moderate” to “susceptible.”
One year later, in 2016, LaFayette CSD’s year-end fund balance was at 4 percent and the “susceptible” designation was removed altogether by the Comptroller. In addition, the district was able to add $615,000 back into its reserves instead of using reserves as had taken place in previous years.
“These improvements are exceptional,” Superintendent Lavine said. “Thanks to the hard work, focus and discipline of our Board, administration, staff and community members, especially Assistant Superintendent Turner, the district’s financial position and direction have improved dramatically and we have met our goal,” Superintendent Lavine said.
Board of Education President Mark Johnson said, “It is most gratifying to lead a Board that has the relationship with its administration, staff and community that we do, and to be able to support the work that leads to this high degree of success. We couldn’t be happier with this outcome.”