On Tuesday, May 17, area voters will head to the polls to decide the fate of the 2022-23 budgets for their local school districts.
Kingston city school district
The Kingston City School District will seek public approval for a $203,123,518 budget for the 2022-23 school year, a spending plan that would increase the local tax levy by 2.98 percent.
The tax levy increase as presented in the budget proposal is below the district’s 3.64 cap, as introduced by New York State, and it follows a 2021-22 budget which didn’t raise the tax levy at all from the prior year.
The budget proposal is a $7.14 million increase over the nearly $196 million 2021-22 spending plan, and includes increases in employee benefits ($3.09 million, to a total of $60.5 million), general support ($1.42 million, to a total of $14.12 million), programs for students with disabilities ($623,576, to a total of $38.62 million), debt service ($946,762, to a total of $11.1 million), operations ($145,485, to a total of $4.94 million), and instructional support ($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. During a meeting in early April, Deputy Superintendent for Human Resources and Business Allen Olsen called transportation costs “a bit of a crapshoot” because of local bus companies experiencing staffing difficulties, and also due to fuel costs and other areas of inflation.
The 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.
The budget assumes an $83.14 million state aid package, a roughly $7 million (9.19 percent) increase.
Polls will be open at all seven of the district’s elementary schools from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Saugerties Central School District
The Saugerties Central School District 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.
The budget was put together with the understanding that state aid was likely to decrease due to a decrease 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 $3000 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.
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 its 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 due 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.
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 systems 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.
Polls will be open at all four of the district’s elementary schools from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.
New Paltz Central School District
The New Paltz Central School District will present a $68,999,093 budget for the 2022-23 school year to the public on May 17. Though the spending plan is more than $1 million lower than the 2021-22 budget, it comes with a 4.57 percent tax levy increase.
This year’s budget process was marked by change in the district’s business office, as
Assistant Superintendent for Business Sharifa Carbon was placed on administrative leave last month. Since then, the spending plan has been shepherded forward by district Treasurer Debra Kosinski, who was named as school business administrator following Carbon’s departure; and Warren Donahue, a consultant who’s helped other local districts over the past few years after retiring from Ulster County BOCES in 2018.
The 2022-23 budget comes in at $1,014,507 less than its predecessor and is at least partly supported by $2,465,855 in federal aid, which has to be used over a two-year period between 2022-23 and 2023-24.
The administrative budget is increasing by $98,108, in part due to a $296,100 jump in BOCES fees because of a capital project being undertaken by the shared educational services provider. The administrative part of the budget saw savings elsewhere, including $50,800 with the elimination of an admin position; and a reduction of $198,800 in the curriculum and staff development line to $655,900 by covering some of that expense with American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for racial equity and bias awareness training.
The district will also see savings in the program portion of the budget to the tune of $1,337,044. The largest cut, $879,106, comes on the special education line; school officials said much of that reduction was achieved by eliminating previously budgeted funding the district hasn’t used in the past.
Savings were also found by moving $179,700 in substance abuse counseling to be covered by ARP, and $226,500 in computer hardware to be covered by the Smart Schools Bond Act.
Reductions were also realized in the capital part of the spending plan, including $133,000 by eliminating a bus purchase, and dropping a transfer of $100,000 to cover a capital project. But there was also an increase of $498,300 in debt service.
Polls will be open in the New Paltz High School gymnasium from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Onteora Central School District
The Onteora Central School District will seek public approval for a $59,991,639 budget with a 1.29 percent tax levy increase.
The budget proposal represents a $1,207,496 increase, or 2.054 percent over the current $58,784,143 spending plan. An added ballot proposition will ask voters for permission to use $675,000 to abate deteriorating asbestos floor tiles throughout the district.
The budget proposal includes the use of $2,962,206 from the fund balance to offset the tax levy. An additional $750,000 will be moved from the fund balance to offset the cost of work on exterior doors at Phoenicia and Woodstock elementary schools and sidewalks, steps and ramps at Phoenicia.
The district hopes to spend $165,000 in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds for a generator at Bennett Elementary, $550,000 in ARP funds for a generator at the Middle/Senior High School, and $1.995 million in ARP and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) funds to renovate Middle and Senior High classrooms.
The budget proposal also calls for a transfer of $802,142 from the General Fund for the installation of high ropes courses at the schools.
The district is also seeking summer school funding to address academic support needed following the 2021-22 school year — the first year students returned to full-time in-person instruction after learning remotely due to COVID quarantines. It also increases spending for mental health support and after-school homework assistance.
The district has also included money for the purchase of a snow plow and a new school bus.
Instruction accounts for the largest part of the proposed budget at 47.84 percent and comes to $48,287,095. Employee benefits make up 31.91 percent. Transportation is 8.43 percent, operations and maintenance is 5.72 percent, general support is 3.58 percent and debt service is 2.52 percent.
The projected tax levy is $46,146,126, an increase of 1.29 percent or $589,000. State aid is projected at $10,297,206, an increase of 4.83 percent or $474,028.
Voting will take place at the district’s three elementary schools — Woodstock, Phoenicia and Bennett — from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m.
— Nick Henderson contributed to this story