New Paltz school Board trustees and members of the public got a broad-brush look at the budget proposed for the 2019-20 school year at their March 4 meeting. Coming in at $62,255,505, it’s a 2.54% increase over last year, which would result in a 2.84% hike to the tax levy itself due to a challenging state aid environment, which could well get bleaker if proposals in this year’s state budget get passed.
This proposal was offered by interim superintendent Bernard Josefsberg and Sharifa Carbon, assistant superintendent for business, both of whom are quite new in their positions. That was acknowledged by board president Michael O’Donnell when he said that there’s usually more detail in the first pass.
The main drivers are wages and the cost of special education services, Josefsberg said. Enrollment is expected to decline by about 70 students overall, although next year’s kindergarten class is projected to be slightly larger. That will translate into smaller class sizes in some, but not all, elementary grades. There are no recommendations to eliminate any positions. Other proposed expenditures include repairing the middle school steps and adding security lighting. Josefsberg is also seeking to pay for “program enhancements” such as math programs through fifth grade, and a “unified sports program” that would include basketball and bowling. Resident Michelle DiDonna was on hand to remind trustees that some community members would like to see modified lacrosse teams funded, rather than anything no one asked for, such as bowling.
Carbon tried to explain the proposal of Governor Cuomo’s that could have long-lasting effects on state aid. That aid comes in two forms — foundation and reimbursement. With Cuomo’s successful push for shared services, she explained, it’s much harder to track reimbursements for qualified expenditures like BOCES contracts to see if the appropriate amount is indeed being sent back. In the current state budget proposal money is shifted out of foundation aid, and Carbon said she and her colleagues are concerned that “the details are troubling” and could lead to aid being quietly reduced in the future. “Beat the legislative drums, please,” she said.
A community budget forum will be held on Wednesday, March 18, 7 p.m., in the audion at New Paltz High School.