The Saugerties Central School District (SCSD) will ask for voter approval on a $66,426,716 budget for the 2022-23 school year, a decrease of $110,249 from the 2021-22 spending plan. Since presenting a draft budget in mid-March, the district has also reduced the tax levy increase from 2.7 percent to 2.36 percent.
“Overall, the budget is less than it was last year,” said the SCSD’s Business Manager Jane St. Amour during a meeting of the Board of Education held on Tuesday, April 19. “I believe it’s only increased about $1.1 million over the past four years, which is an average increase of about $281,000 a year.”
During the meeting, Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt said the budget proposal adhered to the district’s goal of keeping taxpayers in mind while addressing the needs of Saugerties students.
“We do have an obligation to be fiscally responsible, but we’re also adding a tremendous amount of programming,” Reinhardt said. “All the electives that are being added at the junior-senior high, a lot of those electives are student-driven. These are classes that the students want to take. We know the world that they’re entering, so the fact that we can be fiscally responsible to our community and continually add programming, that’s our job.”
The budget was put together with the understanding that state aid was likely to decrease because of a drop in building aid, which corresponds with a reduction in debt service on the expense side. Between last month’s projection and last week’s presentation, the drop was around $3,000 less than anticipated. But state aid overall will fall by $1,365,999, or 5.8 percent, over the 2021-22 total of $23,537,616.
But some elements of state aid are projected to increase in 2022-23, St. Amour said. Foundation aid is estimated to rise from $16,002,807 to $16,537,054; transportation aid should jump from $2,000,968 to $2,309,298; and high cost aid from $387,990 to $444,406. The decreases are primarily found in BOCES aid ($1,332,395, a drop of $450,338) and building aid ($305,207, a decrease of $1,634,298). The building aid decrease is due to the final payments on previous facilities projects in the district.
The most significant increases are seen in BOCES administration and a forthcoming capital project, bumping the district’s share up from $957,126 to $1,292,639, a 35.05 percent jump.
Other increases include a 26.3 percent rise in technology costs to $1,467,294; a 10.35 percent increase in Board of Education and central administration costs to $1,807,826; and an 8.82 percent increase in sports and extracurricular expenses to $608,009, which is partly down to the addition of athletic chaperones.
With the closure of Mt. Marion Elementary School at the end of the 2021-22 school year, the SCSD will remove the salaries of one principal, five elementary teachers, three special education teachers, one physical education teacher, the equivalent of 9.5 full time teaching assistants, one typist, and 2.5 monitors, a total savings of $1,188,533.
“This is based on salary alone for these specific positions…It’s not the total savings, it’s just the salary savings,” said St. Amour. “Some of these are through retirements or resignations.”
Thanks to a pair of federal COVID-relief stimulus packages — the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) — the district will be able to cover the costs of two response to intervention teachers, two multi-tiered system of support teachers, one reading specialist, one dean of students, two literacy coaches, two math coaches, one credit recovery specialist, one director of curriculum and instruction, one accountant, four teaching assistants, one custodial worker and one social worker.
At the elementary level, the district is hoping to add one full-time librarian, one full-time reading instructor and one full-time teacher in grades 5-6. At the secondary level, they are looking to add a language teacher, a teaching assistant with a focus on special education and two full-time teachers with a focus on business and technology.
Superintendent Reinhardt said the specificity of the additional staff came from the public and meetings of the Governance Committee.
“One of the district goals is all students be at or above grade level when they leave grade 3,” he said.
Part of that is ensuring elementary class sizes remain at or below 30 students.
“The contract does say 30 for grades 5 and 6,” Reinhardt said. “This year we had two sections of 28 or 29. One of our goals, if we can afford it, is to have all of our class sizes be 25 or smaller throughout the entire district next year.”
During the presentation, St. Amour identified various district reserves and estimated fund balance, particularly a capital reserve of $1,022,482. The budget proposal includes an increase of $1,209,488, which would bring the capital reserve up to $2,231,970, and closer to a district goal of $10 million.
“This would be used for future capital items,” St, Amour said. “This money would be there if we needed it to accomplish everything that we set out to accomplish with this capital project if pricing came in in a way that would allow us to do it right away.”
Reinhardt said the district would continue to focus on its reserves.
“They’re still not funded where they need them to be, we know that,” he said. “We do have a plan for all of our reserves.”
The SCSD will hold a budget hearing at Saugerties High School on Tuesday, May 10. Voters in the district will determine the fate of the budget on Tuesday, May 17 with polls open at all four elementary schools from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.