The Onteora Central School District Board of Education adopted its 2014/15 recommended budget at its April 8 meeting in the Middle/High school auditorium, the final numbers of which call for a plan that would spend $51.8 million — an increase of $266,685 or 0.52 percent from the current year. There is no increase at all in the tax levy and the district will utilize $3.4 million of fund balance to offset the levy.
Voters will decide whether to approve the budget on May 20.
Other than Onteora administrators, very few people attended the meeting that also included a public hearing on whether to allocate nearly $1 million of already existing capital funds for district wide masonry repairs. Additionally, voters will make the call on $7 million worth of capital projects that were detailed, also from funds already existing, with a timeline for public communication before the May 20 election.
The board reported that the State Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) that took funding from school districts in order to fill its revenue shortfall was partially restored. Since 2009/10 approximately $1.5 million of State aid was reduced by the little understood and obscure device. However $225,439 was restored for next year, and State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill was able to add an additional $50,000. “Assemblyman Cahill called us, called me directly,” said District Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill, “which was wonderful and said the reason he was targeting us was [that] among all the districts he works with, [Onteora] and Rhinebeck received the least amount of Gap restoration and felt he needed to help us out…and I thanked him profusely.”
There will be no program or staff cuts as a result of the proposed budget. Program additions include accelerated studio art for grade eight; foreign language beginning in grade seven; high school computer science; CPR/first aid; cultural anthropology; philosophy and robotics. A Committee for Special Education Chair (CSE) position and a special education teacher were added, both funded through a Federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) grant. A part time English as Second Language teacher (ESL) will be added and retirement positions will be filled. Summer school was restored in 2013 as an Academic Intervention support program and will continue this summer. Money has been earmarked: $275,000 for repairs to the track; $275,000 for the Phoenicia parking lot; $350,000 for repairs made to the Phoenicia and Woodstock playgrounds; and $100,000 to address safety and security concerns to interior doors throughout the district.