The Kingston City School District Board of Education is considering a $203.12 million draft budget for the 2022-23 school year that would increase the tax levy by 2.98 percent.
The draft budget was discussed during a School Board meeting held on Wednesday, April 6, with school officials noting that the tax levy increase would be below its 3.64 cap introduced by New York State, and that it follows a 2021-22 budget which didn’t raise the tax levy from the prior year.
“This Board has decided six of the last eight years to be below the tax levy limit — most of the time significantly below the tax levy limit, in particular last year when we were at zero,” said Superintendent Paul Padalino. “We’ve been at it twice and below it six times in the last eight years…While this year we can’t go to the zero that we were able to last year, we are being conscious of everything that our community goes through, but also knowing that our community values that we provide education to our students, and this budget does that.”
Padalino added that the draft spending plan fulfills the promise that guides the district through each year’s budget process. “We’ve been balancing the needs of our students with our community’s values and their ability to pay,” he said.
The draft budget overall proposes a $7.14 million increase over the nearly $196 million 2021-22 spending plan, and includes an increase in employee benefits of $3.09 million bringing that total to $60.5 million; an increase of $1.42 million in general support, now totaling $14.12 million; programs for students with disabilities would increase by $623,576 to a total of $38.62 million; debt service rises by $946,762 to total $11.1 million, operations goes up by $145,485 to $4.94 million, and instructional support increases by $182,914 to a total of $3.83 million.
Also likely to increase substantially is the cost of student transportation, budgeted at around $11.09 million, a jump of $1.53 million, or 15.95 percent.
“Transportation is a bit of a crapshoot because some of our bus companies are going to force us to go out to bid this year,” said Allen Olsen, deputy superintendent for human resources and business. Olsen said that in addition to fuel prices and other areas of inflation connected to transportation, local school bus companies are experiencing staffing difficulties.
“Bus companies have been struggling, particularly with…having enough drivers,” Olsen said. “Next year, we’re expecting transportation to cost us a bit more because bus companies have to pay their drivers more in order to attract drivers.”
The draft budget isn’t all increases. The cost of BOCES and special services are likely to drop by $238,533 to $4,661,467. And the overall cost of regular school education is expected to cost $45.2 million, a decrease of $3.09 million.
There is also the potential for good news coming in the district’s state aid package, which the draft budget has at $83.14 million, a roughly $7 million (9.19 percent) increase. Those figures sometimes increase even further after the legislature counters the governor’s budget proposal.
“We don’t know what our state aid is going to be next year,” Olsen said. “We assume it’ll be near what we know now, but hopefully it will be a bit more.”
Padalino stressed that the draft budget achieves what the district sets out to do each year: Provide a quality education for its students while keeping the taxpayers in mind.
“There are no layoffs, no cuts in programs, we’re keeping our commitment to our small class sizes, we’re keeping the commitments we’ve made year after year around this budget,” he said. “Extracurriculars, all of our athletics, etc. Everything stays in place and we move forward with the goals and initiatives that we’ve been working on.”
The Board of Education is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, April 20 to adopt the 2022-23 budget. Voters will hit the polls on Tuesday, May 17 to determine the fate of the budget.