Monday, May 4, 2015

Playing Around with Budget Data

Our newspaper consortium provides us with this nice database, which is excellent for playing around with and viewing NYS schools through a fiscal lens. The average spending increase this year is 1.9 percent, and the average tax levy increase is 1.6 percent, but as usual, the interesting factoids are in the outliers.

For example, you can see by sorting for tax levy that poor Tioga CSD is going out with a 2.4 percent spending change that translates into a 30 percent tax levy increase (yes, that is above the cap). It appears that Tioga has pretty well spent down its reserves and is viewing this as a one-time correction. Watch this space to see if they get the supermajority they'll need to approve that leap.

Then there's little Jasper-Troupsburg, west of Corning, which reduced spending this year yet still faces an 8 percent tax levy increase. I'd tell them to consolidate, but they already did, back in 1987.

Sorting by enrollment indicates that Tuxedo, which I wrote about here, is declining by a terrifying 45 percent. Port Jefferson in Suffolk County declined by 10 percent but still managed to increase its budget by 5.1 percent. Port Jefferson's tax levy is nearly Dryden's whole budget, for 600 fewer students.

A better comparison might be Montauk and Groton, one with a budget of $18.9 million for 339 students and the other with a budget of $19.0 million for 825 students. Per student, Montauk's kids are getting an education with the same monetary value as Olivia's at Cornell. (Fire Island and a few other tiny districts cost substantially more per student than any Ivy League School and show clearly what people mean when they talk about economies of scale.)

Sorting by county shows that in Tompkins County, Groton has the smallest proposed tax levy increase and the greatest drop-off in population. Enrollment in Dryden and Newfield has grown slightly. Ithaca's spending growth is smallest; Trumansburg's is largest. Everyone seems to be within the tax cap.

Go ahead, play around. It's not often that you see statewide inequities laid out quite this neatly.

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