October 21, 2021

Cortland school district freezes spending

Move comes amid financial strain caused by pandemic

When Robert Edwards, the superintendent for the Cortland Enlarged City School District, took over this summer following the retirement of Michael J. Hoose, the financial outlook for the 2020-21 school year was not bright.

“What became clear at the end of this summer … is that there will be reductions this current school year in state aid, potentially to 20%,” he said in a video last week.

The financial strain put on by the coronavirus pandemic led Edwards to freeze spending for non-contractual obligations and to require that he review all purchase orders.

The superintendent shared the news during a 30-minute long video presentation about the district’s financial and budgetary status on the district’s website. He explained how the district’s budgeting process works before he shifted over to explain the district’s financial status.

About 61% of the district’s revenue in the $50.2 million budget comes from state aid with the other 39% coming from local sources, including a $17.75 million property tax levy.

Edwards said he met with district fiscal advisers in October and November to discuss what a 20% state aid reduction would mean — about $6.2 million in lost state aid.

The district looked at what 5% and 10% reductions in state aid would be like, which meant losing $1.5 million and $3.1 million in the 2020-21 school year, respectively.

“That 20% continues to be a concern for us when we hear about the state budget, about the shortfall of billions of dollars and what that may look like for the future,” Edwards said.

Edwards said he is meeting weekly with the district’s budget office to review expenses and looking at staffing audits.

Edwards could not be reached for further details Friday.

The district also is monitoring its revenue streams and where shifts may be occurring.

At the same time, he asked teachers and administrative staff to advocate for assistance where they can.

“As a staff and as a school district, we will continue to be great for kids no matter what,” he said. “I mentioned to our staff that whether we have $2 in our pocket or $200 in our pocket, we are going to be great for our kids and we are going to continue to have the awesome opportunities for kids that we have.”