Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NASD Budget Post Prequel

The new NASD budget is in and it sounds like ‘good’ news considering past history. The initial proposed tax hike is 1.7%. Taking a cursory glance at the budget there is lots to write about, so I’m starting off with a brief history to help put things in context.

Last year the hike was 2.69% (read the post here), but two years ago the NASD taxed to the maximum amount allowed by the state, gained a surplus, and this resulted in future tax percentages yielding more money at the same percent because the base level was increased, than if they had only taxed up to what they really needed (read the article here).

For years the NASD has claimed that increased student enrollment was the reason for annual tax increases. The 2011 Budget projection for enrollment indicates it will be the fourth consecutive year with a decreased student enrollment. Our 2011-2012 budget year enrollment will be just below 2005-2006 school year enrollment, but despite the roughly equivalent number of students, the total expenditures will be up $19.5 million.

Based on the article in the Express-Times (read it here), this year, since enrollment can’t be blamed, it appears the reason for the tax increase will be the state funding, or more specifically the lack thereof.

Why do we need $19.5 million more today, to educate the same number of students we had seven years ago?

Some comes in decisions made that we must simply deal with now, for instance a new MS instead of a new Elementary school. This cost us significant debt, increased transportation costs, increased administration costs, increased teachers, increased support staff, increased maintenance, and increased utilities compared to an elementary building.

Other decisions remain in our control. Last January I compared budgets from 1998 – 2010. 2010 had an odd enrollment figure, which I also explain in the post, hence the two sets of figures, but here is what I observed, “Based on these comparisons, enrollment is up 19.4% or 27.7% (depending on next year’s enrollment number used), staff is up 44%, cost per enrollment is up 80.7% or 65.2% (again depending on how one considers next year’s enrollment), and expenditures are up 110.9%.”

Enrollment has an impact, but we are now leveling off and it seems we should be carefully examining the student to teacher ratio. In the same post, I noticed that, “The projected budget has 13.5 teachers for every student enrolled (4814-105) or 14.8 (5151 – see below), compared to one for every 17 students in 1998-99.” This difference, when considering salary and benefits, probably accounts for $3-$5 million per year in spending (read the post here).

There are a lot of things that can be done. In 1998 our total budget was $32.1 million, the new 2011 budget is $68.8 million. In the past people have argued that I don’t account for inflation. For the most part inflation is 2-3% per year, and in late 2008 it dipped to 1%. In 2009 there more months with deflation than inflation. This year it has been around 1-2% (inflation rates available here). Even over a 12 month period this doesn’t account for the increases we’ve seen.

1.7% is the lowest increase we’ve had, I can’t recall a no tax increase year (please let me know if you can), but it was achieved at the highest base we’ve ever had and that means the NASD receives the same money at a much lower tax hike.

More NASD budget posts to follow.

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker


The Battle Cry of Freedom said...

This is one of the best reports I have seen on what has been going on with the NASD. We pay more and the kids get a lousier education. It is time to wake up and realize that we can no longer afford this debt. Thank you Ross

Wayne said...

I'm going to give the Morning Call reporter a gold star for including this in his report:

"...some directors discussed proposing a tax increase of up to 2.5 percent in the preliminary budget, applying for exceptions to state tax increase caps before they expire. Without getting an exception, Nazareth can only raise taxes 1.7 percent."

You can read the whole article HERE