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Garden City Public Schools’ Question Of The Week

In order to clarify the complex budget issues facing Garden City Public Schools as it formulates the 2013-2014 budget, the district continues its Question of the Week feature to provide information and address concerns expressed by residents. A complete listing of the questions and answers will be posted on the district’s website: www.gardencity.k12.ny.us.

Question of the Week:

If employee pension costs are driving Garden City Public School’s 2013-2014 budget higher, can the school district contribute less?

No, public school districts in New York State are mandated to belong to and contribute to both the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). School districts are required to offer employees the opportunity to belong to one of these public pension systems. The contribution rates are determined by the ERS and TRS Boards based on a five-year rolling average of returns on investment and future needs as computed through actuarial analysis. “We are given the information in a letter distributed to all State school districts,” explained Assistant Superintendent of Business Al Chase. “Garden City Public Schools has no discretion in terms of setting the rates.”

To amend school districts’ mandatory pension contributions would require action by the governor and state legislature. For Garden City Public Schools, the increase in required contributions for the 2013-2014 budget year to the ERS is $568,474. The TRS requires an increase of $1,598,244. Together, these total $2,166,718 and have a budget impact of 2.07 percent and a tax impact of 2.28 percent.

The district cannot borrow to pay these expenses, nor can it arrange extra fees, such as municipalities can, to generate additional revenue streams. This includes being prohibited from implementing “pay to play” fees, i.e., charging parents for students’ participation in sports teams.  Contributions to pension systems are just one of the many mandates required of public school districts. For complete information about the proposed 2013-14 school budget, visit the Budget Information section on the district’s home web page: www.gardencity.k12.ny.us.