By Bill Furlong – Assistant Superintendent
During our budget process we make several comparisons against schools in our area, especially schools our size. These comparisons include cost per student, overall budget, level of debt, and the cost of specific areas like athletics. We present this information during our budget hearing and we always compare very favorably to schools in our area and have one of the lowest costs per student numbers in Central New York.
There was a recent Times-Union article that listed the per student cost of education for schools in the Albany area. Having tracked the per student cost in our area as a benchmark, I wanted to see how we compared to schools in the capital region.
The good news is that we also compare very favorably to the schools in the Albany region. Of the 13 schools identified in the Times-Union article, only two, Shenendehowa and Saratoga, have a lower cost per student. The two schools with a lower cost per student are both much larger school districts. The cost per student for schools named in the article ranged from a low of $14,760 (Saratoga) to a high of $21,011 (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk). Our actual per student cost was $15,781 in 2011-12. The statewide average is $18,618 per student. The bad news is that we estimate that this per student cost will increase in 12-13 to $16,380. While our actual budget is lower in 2012-13, a declining enrollment results in a higher cost per student. Declining enrollment will continue to influence our cost per student in a negative way. While we have adjusted staffing as our enrollment has decreased, there are many fixed costs including utilities and debt, which cannot be adjusted as easily.
While we compare favorably to the statewide average, it is important to note that New York State has the highest per student cost in the country. The Times-Union article discusses several reasons for this including the impact of costly mandates that are placed upon public schools in NYS. One factor that was not addressed in the article is the cost of living in NYS. Of the top ten states with the highest cost per student, eight of those states are in the northeast where the cost of living is higher for a wide variety of reasons. Higher cost of living results in higher salaries and wages. If you look at some of the school districts on Long Island you will see cost per student in the $25,000 to $30,000 range which influences the NYS average. Please look for more articles on how we as a school district look to contain or reduce cost.