In a presentation at their recent regular meeting on Wednesday, March 13, the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education was asked by Superintendent of Schools, Maria Rice, and Assistant Superintendent for Business, Richard Linden, to consider a $63.7 million budget for the 2019-2020 school year.
The budget proposal is configured at a 3.8 percent tax levy. If adopted by the board, the budget will require a simple 50-percent-plus-one voter approval, said Linden, because the tax levy limit this year, including the purchase of buses, is 4 percent. He reminded the board that the “two percent tax cap” required by the state to pass a budget with a simple majority is not really two percent, because it is dependent upon a complex formula with ten different factors that includes calculating in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). And the 3.8 percent tax levy is the overall tax levy for the district, Linden reminded the board, with individual tax rates controlled by assessments and equalization rates, which are not known until August.
The budget calls for the purchase of six buses, but there will not be a separate bus proposition this year because of a change in the way the tax levy is calculated. The proposed budget includes a line item of $490,000 for the purchase of three 65-passenger buses, one 20-passenger bus, one wheelchair-accessible bus and one school car for small groups.
The major portion of the budget proposal of $63.7 million is the $50,145,000 for programs, which includes teachers, guidance and supplies such as computer hardware and software, Linden said. There is $6,310,000 included for administrative costs with the remaining $7,245,000 allotted for debt services and miscellaneous operations.
New this year is a $300,000 one-time-only ask to create a Wellness Center to be used by all high school students during the school day as part of their required physical fitness courses, and potentially after school with appropriate supervision. Intended to offer students additional opportunities for stress relief and other benefits of physical fitness, the Wellness Center would include 42 stations for working out with a separate area for activities such as yoga and stretching.
If the board approves the creation of a Wellness Center, it will bring with it a $50,000 budget line item that will appear on the budget every year after, to be used for maintenance and replacement of athletic equipment in the Wellness Center as needed. Superintendent Rice pointed out that the $50,000 would be used only as needed and that with brand new gym equipment installed for the 2019-20 school year, it would likely be several years until anything in the center needed maintenance.
On the revenue side of the budget, state aid is estimated at $16,355,000. As in previous years, $1,500,000 from the appropriated fund balance will be applied, along with $300,000 for the Wellness Center, if approved, for a total contribution of $1,800,000 moved to the budget from the fund balance. Additional revenue coming into the district is projected at $1,045,000. With a $44,500,000 tax levy, the total budget comes to $63,700,000, a 3.1 percent increase over last year’s budget.
The appropriated fund balance currently contains approximately $2.3 million, Linden said.
Budgeting for the special education program requires maintaining a reserve for hiring teachers and aides, said Rice, because the program is fluid, depending on the number of children in the district requiring those services. That number can change overnight should a new family with special needs children moves into the district.
Class sizes in the elementary schools remain stable, projected at approximately 20-21 per kindergarten class, 22-23 in first and second grades, 21-22 in third grade and 23-24 for fifth grade classes, said Rice. The class sizes are staying low because of decreasing enrollment in the district, she added.
In the area of technology support, the district currently employs a director of integrated technology, a data specialist and a network specialist. The district also has four systems operators who work as teacher assistants for technology, and they utilize the equivalent of 3.6 full-time computer technicians through BOCES. The budget proposes to eliminate the computer tech use from BOCES and hire three full-time equivalents for the district, “which comes out to a wash in dollars and cents,” according to Rice. In terms of added costs, the budget calls for the addition of another integrated technology teacher to assist with new devices coming into the district through the new SMART Schools program likely to be implemented, which supplies students with Chromebooks.
(The Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) authorized the issuance of $2 billion of general obligation bonds to finance improved educational technology and infrastructure to improve learning and opportunity for students throughout the state.)
Changes in administrative needs and the need for state testing formerly handled by the county, now shifted to the school districts, also brings an increase to that area of the budget.
The next Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, March 27 at the high school at 7 p.m. will serve as a budget forum for the community. Taxpayers are encouraged to attend and offer input. The Wednesday, April 10 BOE meeting is expected to find the board adopting a final budget for the vote on May 21. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Questions may be addressed to Richard Linden, assistant superintendent for business, by calling (845) 256-3010 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.