The New Paltz Central School District may tap into their fund balance in order to bring their tax levy increase below 3 percent for their 2022-23 budget. The proposed spending plan is currently $70,802,100, around $788,500 more than their adopted 2021-22 budget.
The maximum allowable tax levy for the 2022-23 budget is $46,557,878, an increase of 3.50 percent.
During a special budget meeting held by the Board of Education on Wednesday, March 23,
Assistant Superintendent for Business Sharifa Carbon explained that the district had two options to bring down the tax levy increase: Trim the budget or use their fund balance.
“The 3.5 percent is high, it’s concerning,” Carbon said. “I would recommend using the unassigned fund balance because it’s something that we can deal with. The money can be replaced…But also, we’re preserving our program. And that really is the heart of the matter. And we have a lot going on.”
Board Vice-President Brian Cournoyer agreed.
“It’s been my experience that once you cut something it’s very difficult to get it back,”
Earlier in the meeting, Superintendent Angela Urbina-Medina discussed last year’s budget process and elaborated on some of the things the district is planning on doing in 2022-23.
“We were really not knowing what to expect given the state of affairs in the country with regard to the pandemic,” said Urbina-Medina of the 2021-22 budget. “With that being said, we tried to anticipate the needs of our students and frame them around a more typical school year.”
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the district’s planned technology rollout, the superintendent explained.
“At this point, all of our 6th through 11th grade students have Chromebooks,” Urbina-Medina said. “The students that will receive Chromebooks for the 22-23 school year will be our 5th graders, who will be moving up to 6th grade at the start of the school year. Students in grades 3-5 have one-to-one devices, but those devices stay in school. And students K-2 have access to devices in the classroom, and those are organized in centers for student usage during the day.”
In 2021-22, the NPCSD began a unified sports program that will continue next year with basketball. They also appointed an athletic trainer and brought in additional mental health support.
Currently, the 2022-23 budget would continue some of the district’s efforts from last year and would not cut any staff.
“Any of the staffing changes would be due to attrition,” Urbina-Medina said. “There are, I’m sure, individuals who will be retiring, and those positions would be replaced, if necessary, based on the needs of students. All of that is still a work in progress.”
The superintendent added that the district will maintain and continue its commitment to racial equity, along with its relationship with Due East Educational Equity Collaborative, which helps school districts to expand academic success and a sense of belonging for all students.
The NPCSD is also planning to honor a frequent request from parents.
“One of the recurring themes…is to have students return to field trips and having opportunities similar to the one they had when they went to Frost Valley (Camp) and had cooperative learning opportunities off-campus,” Urbina-Medina said.
The 2022-23 budget currently increases enrichment per-school by $22,500.
But how the budget will look — and how it will be paid for — is still being decided. Also in the works is the tax levy increase the district will ask voters to support.
To demonstrate what the tax levy increase might look like to homeowners, Carbon prepared a chart to show what a 3.5 percent, 3.25 percent and 2.95 increase would look like for anyone who currently has a school tax bill between $2,000-$10,000.
For example, someone with a $2,000 school tax bill would see their tax levy rise by $70 with a 3.5 increase, $65 with a 3.25 percent increase and $59 with a 2.95 percent increase. The chart included a note that individual tax rates are impacted by changes in assessments and equalization rates.
“I could tell you right now, I don’t know anybody who has a $2,000 tax bill,” said Trustee Teresa Thompson. “Even $4,000. I’m worried about the optics for the taxpayers. If we could go to 2.99, or 2.5. I would like to get it below 3, if it’s possible.”
Carbon recently acknowledged that 3.5 percent might seem high, but it isn’t historically so.
“There can be sticker shock when you hear 3.5 percent as a maximum allowable levy increase over last year,” Carbon said during a School Board meeting held on Wednesday, March 2, particularly when the tax levy decreased in 2021-22 by 1.23 percent.
But 3.50 percent is not the highest the tax cap has been since the limit was first introduced in 2013. That first year, the district levied a 4.43 percent tax increase, the maximum allowed under the cap. The district also hit the cap in 2014 (2.36 percent), 2015 (4.24 percent), 2016 (1.22 percent), 2017 (2.34 percent), 2018 (4.38 percent), 2019 (3.98 percent) and 2020 (2.84 percent).
Carbon said that the district’s state aid should help even more in the future than it does today.
“The state is currently still committed to the plan of increasing foundation aid statewide to the point of being fully funded next year,” Carbon said. “So for New Paltz, that’s a big deal.”
The 2022-23 budget is expected to be adopted no later than Tuesday, April 19. The budget vote and School Board elections will take place at New Paltz High from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17.