postheadericon Lansing Wealth Index Impacts State School Aid

school_kids1_120Lansing is wealthy.  Except it's not.  That was the message Lansing Schools Business Administrator Mary June King had for the Board Of Education Monday.  King said that while Lansing has a high Pupil Wealth Ratio (PRW) among Tompkins County school districts, the PRW is not high state-wide.

The PRW calculates the property wealth in a school district.  It is calculated by dividing the Actual Valuation of taxable real property by Total Wealth Pupil Units, and dividing the result by the State Average.  The APWR is calculated by dividing the aggregate income in the district by Total Wealth Pupil Units, and dividing the result by the State Average.  Together they form the Combined Wealth Ratio (CWR) to determine school aid levels.

For the current school year in Tompkins County Ithaca has the highest CWR (1.129) followed by Lansing (.986).  The next wealthiest is Trumansburg (.669), followed by Dryden (.0658), Groton (.0571) and Newfield (.0523).  Lansing's total adjusted gross income was calculated at about the state average in 2011-12.  it rose above the average this school year, or more accurately the state average fell.  Next year's calculation brings the state average higher, almost to Lansing's level.  As for taxes, King says the tax base in Lansing will rise from $742,000,000 this year to $764,000,000 for the 2013-14 school tax year.

What does this mean?  School aid and property taxes are large components of a school budget.  Districts with a CRW of 1.0 are considered 'more wealthy,' which may mean a decrease in state school aid.  King says that may be good news for Lansing, because it's CRW was 1.032 last year, 0.046 more than the 2013-2014 CRW.  But Lansing's wealth ration qualifies the district for in the range of 60% aid as compared to aid in the 90s% for other districts in the county.  Lansing had its highest CRW last year, at 1.032.  That was up from 0.880 in 2008-09.

This year Lansing receives the lowest amount of school aid in the county ($7,373,325).  Ithaca receives the most at $26,963,058, followed by Dryden at almost $17 million and the other communities in the $11 to $12 million range.

King noted the district's total taxable value has been decreasing since the 2009-10 school year.  That is the combined value of property taxes and PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of taxes) payments.  The total taxable value was $895,600,000 in 2009-10, but has gone down to $863,000,000 in the current school year.

She says the district's spending continues to rise each year, but that rise has been occurring at a decreasing rate and spending has been less than budget over the past five years.  She said that she is monitoring areas that underspend, looking for patterns that might indicate budgeting less in the future.  But so far she has not found patterns, which means that budgeting is on track.

The Lansing school budget has risen to $26,000,000 this year from $22,838,912 in 2008-09.  But state aid has declined from 7,176,026 in 2008-09 to $6,617,084 this year.  Federal aid rose to a high of $1,051,482 in 2009-10, but this year it is a relatively insignificant part of Lansing's budget at $42,367 (with a low of $6,375 last year).

Soaring costs of benefits that are out of the district''s control are the main cause of budget rises.  Continuing decreases in PILOT agreements, largely due to the decrease in the Cayuga power Plant's value and decreases in state aid put more burden on property taxpayers.  King says it will also mean the Board Of Education will have to consider cuts that may mean larger class sizes as they put the 2014-15 budget together.

nys_fiscl_stressThis map, released yesterday by the New York State Comptroller's office, shows counties with school districts in fiscal stress. Darker shades of red indicate more districts in stress. White indicates none. Tompkins County is shown in white.

According to a report released yesterday, 87 school districts (13% of school districts statewide) have been designated as fiscally stressed under State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System. DiNapoli’s office evaluated 674 school districts with fiscal years ending on June 30, 2013.   No districts in Tompkins County were deemed to be fiscally stressed.

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