New Paltz school budget proposal ups tax levy 4 percent

The New Paltz Central School District will ask voters to approve a $63,640,000 budget for the 2019-2020 school year. The vote will be held at the high school on Tuesday, May 21. Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The budget reflects a 2.98 percent increase over the current 2018-19 budget and includes a 3.98 percent tax levy increase. If adopted by the board, the budget will require a simple 50-percent-plus-one voter approval because the tax levy limit this year, including the purchase of buses, is 4 percent.

The budget calls for the purchase of six buses. 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.

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The major portion of the budget is incurred by $50,190,000 for programs, which includes teachers, guidance and supplies such as computer hardware and software. The budget includes $6,250,000 for administrative costs with the remaining $7,2,000 allotted for debt services and miscellaneous operations.

The budget includes a one-time ask of $350,000 for playground equipment at Duzine Elementary School ($50,000) and a Wellness Center at the high school ($300,000). The funding will be taken from the existing fund balance. An additional $1,650,000 from the appropriated fund balance will also be applied. The appropriated fund balance currently contains approximately $2.3 million at present.

On the revenue side of the budget, the tax levy, including STAR, will provide the district with $44,565,000. Additional income from sources that include a BOCES refund, interest and charges to other districts comes to $1,049,701.

State aid will supply $16,025,299. Because this figure is $334,701 less than initially anticipated, the initial budget presentation by the superintendent and assistant superintendent at the Board of Education’s recent meeting on April 10 called for tabling the hiring of elementary school teachers to replace three retiring teachers. Board members said they would not approve a budget that did not include the hiring of elementary school teachers, because the community had made it clear to them at the recent budget forum that smaller class sizes, especially in the early elementary years, were a top priority, and the way to achieve smaller class sizes is through hiring sufficient educators.

Class sizes in the elementary schools are currently 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. At the recent budget forum, community members and kindergarten teachers asked for no more than 18 students per kindergarten class.

Board members systematically combed through the budget proposal, line by line, and came up with enough reductions to shift the budget total toward hiring four new elementary school teachers and a library clerk. Trustees are also banking on upcoming teacher retirements (as yet unknown) to make up the difference.

Ultimately, prior to adopting the budget proposal, the board made the following reductions to what was initially proposed for the budget, emphasizing that the “cuts” were actually reductions of estimated increases that brought the figures in line with the current budget: a reduction of $5,000 from the salary budgeted for a person to supervise the new Wellness Center after school hours; $30,000 from the proposed $60,000 salary for a substance abuse counselor (a new position); $35,000 from funding for school clubs; $8,000 from textbook budgeting; $5,000 for supplies at Duzine Elementary; $2,000 for supplies at Lenape Elementary; $3,400 for supplies at the middle school; $2,600 for supplies at the high school; $4,900 for a BOCES record project; $2,500 for the cost of paying middle school teachers to serve as substitutes; $8,000 from WinSNAP (cafeteria management program); $10,000 from the proposed salary for a “climate coach,” a new position that will oversee DASA concerns; and $31,100 from a retirement.

Budgeting for the special education program requires maintaining a reserve for hiring teachers and aides, said Superintendent Maria 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.

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 initial budget proposal called for an elimination of the computer tech use from BOCES and hire three full-time equivalents for the district, but that idea was eliminated from the final adopted budget proposal.

The budget does allow for the hiring of a bus mechanic and maintenance/custodial staff to take care of the additional 40,000 square feet of space the middle school now has since recent renovations.

Questions about the budget may be addressed to Richard Linden, assistant superintendent for business, by calling (845) 256-3010 or emailing rlinden@newpaltz.k12.ny.us.