Tue October 29, 2013
Upstate school spending continues to fluctuate
Business First is out with its school spending report for the 48 counties across Upstate New York.
Using 2011-2012 State Education Department figures, the report says the least expensive of the 453 districts is in Glens Falls at just over $12,000 per student; the most expensive is in Long Lake in the Adirondacks at $54,000 per student.
For the five years leading up to 2012, spending in the typical school district rose nearly 21 percent.
Business First Projects Editor Scott Thomas said costs can vary widely depending on the experience level of teachers.
"The median level of experience for each district can vary substantially. We have some districts where the typical teacher has less than ten years of experience and therefore is fairly low on the pay scale still," Thomas told WBFO News. "There are others that have a substantial number of teachers who are getting up toward the retirement age and getting toward peak earning power."
Those younger teachers can also be in newer pension tiers requiring greater personal contribution to pension costs.
The Lancaster school district again this year has the lowest per-pupil spending in Western New York at just over $13,000. Superintendent Mike Vallely said the district has a culture of continuing academic improvement while holding down costs, including paying older teachers to retire.
Vallely said a key cost saving revolves around self-funding of health care instead of relying on a health insurer.
"We have 478 teachers and 750 employees. So, Lancaster took it upon itself together with all its bargaining units to become self-funded. So, that has really helped us out. That's been a huge cost saving to taxpayers and also providing nice benefits to employees."
Vallely said the district has also taken back special education and alternative education to provide the programs at lower cost.