Blind Brook Budget Standoff: What’s Next?

Planning for the upcoming school year requires the Board of Education (“BOE”) and the Superintendent of the Blind Brook School District to formulate a spending budget for the new year. This budget is a financial plan which outlines the expenditures and projected spendings for the school year and it must be approved by eligible voters. Anyone 18 years of age or older that lives in the Blind Brook District is eligible and encouraged to vote. 

There are a variety of expenses involved in the school budget, including teacher and staff salaries and benefits, instructional materials, sporting equipment, building maintenance, pupil transportation, and repair of facilities.  The Blind Brook School Budget Policy states, “Budget planning and development for the District will be an integral part of program planning so that the annual operating budget may effectively express and implement programs and activities of the School System…” With this guidance in mind, the BOE begins the budgeting process by sifting through the spending and budgeting of the previous year, and seeing what the district must continue with, along with new ideal elements it can put in place, inflation considered. 

The BOE reviewed many elements when developing the budget. These elements include the current programs Blind Brook currently runs, along with some new highly requested enhancements by the community. The budgeting process commences with a consideration of the program, followed by a consideration of the Tax Levy Cap. Then the Board will compute revenues and expenditures. Throughout the process, the decision of whether to exceed the Tax Levy Cap or not must be made. This cap refers to an eight-step calculation that each New York school district must follow in order to calculate its individual tax levy limit. 

The BOE formulated a Plan A budget, a Plan B budget, a Rollover budget, a Tax Cap Compliant Budget, and Additional Propositions. The budget the BOE put forth had the goal of maintaining more instructional programs and activities and providing an outstanding educational experience for all Blind Brook students. The Plan A budget had an expenditure of $58,307,701 resulting in a 9.84% expenditure increase. Plan B involved about $57,521,146 with a 9.42% expenditure increase. Reductions from Plan A to Plan B included less funding for services such as the groundsmen, security monitor, and team uniforms. 

Other budgets were considered such as the Rollover Budget, meaning taking all of the services/activities that Blind Brook currently funds, and adding no additional cost for next year’s budget. The proposed expenditure for the Rollover Budget was $55,884,062 with a 6.31% increase due to inflation, and it did not include any addition of services, equipment, or new educational implementations. Blind Brook Superintendent Dr. Colin Byrne explained that these budgets were created by first making sure that the prior year’s expenditure remained consistent into the following school year to keep all of the current amenities offered by Blind Brook. But the budget also includes desired additional services. For example, the increased mental health and special education needs that students have experienced are reflected in the budget. The BOE and Superintendent Byrne proposed a plan that lay somewhere between Plan A and Plan B after long discussion and consideration, with a $57,763,796 expenditure. 

On May 16th, 2023, the members of the Blind Brook District were granted the opportunity to vote for the proposed budget, which consisted of an increase of 9.88% over the amount of the 2022-2023 school year budget. As the BOE has strategically discussed propositions for the 2023-24 budget plan, it anticipated that voters would approve what it viewed as a financially responsible proposition, even though the proposed budget exceeded the tax cap of 2.49%. However, the May 16th proposed budget did not receive enough votes to pass. On June 20th, a new budget plan will be proposed and, if it passes, serve as the final budget. This new plan must be supported by at least 60% of voters in order to be successful. 

Following the budget’s defeat, the BOE and Dr. Byrne have attempted to propose a budget that satisfies all parties. This involved Dr. Byrne reaching out to the administrative team for another look at the budgets in search of items that can be cut out of the budget or deferred  temporarily. It also required the BOE to seek the input of the community through meetings and social media to better understand why the budget failed to pass on May 16. The BOE has already begun rearranging the budgets by considering possibly putting off the purchase of new textbooks and sports equipment until the following school year. At press time, the final cuts had not yet been determined, but the BOE will proceed with the intention of keeping all essential positions, services, and equipment within the budget. They also intend to continue advanced World Language and reading programs at the middle and elementary schools. The BOE and Superintendent have also accepted calls and emails from parents of students, and voters, and plan to take all opinions into account. Dr. Byrne described the decision for which budgetary elements to preserve as a “balancing act…there is not a clear cut thing to say [such as] this is what you have to cut and this is what you’re not going to cut.” This means that the BOE and Dr. Byrne will continue to work through items to keep and to eliminate for the overall benefit of the Blind Brook community. 

Though the results of the May 16 budget vote were not what the BOE and Dr. Byrne wanted, they will continue to pursue a budget meant to satisfy the community financially while preserving the district’s reputation for excellent academic programs. In order to come to a conclusion at the upcoming election on June 20th, Dr. Byrne has tried to keep the community informed and he urges, “everyone to go out and vote, even our high school seniors who are eighteen.” He also welcomes any and all district citizens who have inquiries to reach out to him or any board members concerning the budget for the 2023-2024 school year.