2.98 percent tax hike for Kingston City School District
In unofficial results, the Kingston City School District passed its $203,123,518 million budget for the 2022-23 school year by a margin of 2,348-752. The spending plan will increase the local tax levy by 2.98 percent.
Superintendent Paul Padalino expressed gratitude to the public for the overwhelming budget support. “It means a lot coming off the last two years,” Padalino said. “There has been so much turmoil for everyone. But when it came down to the moment where we needed the support, our people were there for us.”
Also coming out on top were two of three School Board incumbents running for reelection, along with a challenger familiar to many in the district. Former Kingston High School Principal Marie Anderson led all candidates with 1,662 votes. Holding onto their seats on the School Board are Suzanne Jordan (1,399 votes) and Steven Spicer (1,232 votes). Challengers Jennifer Fitzgerald (940 votes), Malia Cordel (675 votes) and James McCasland (575 votes), along with incumbent James Michael (552 votes) did not earn enough support to win a seat.
“Marie has such a depth and breadth of experience in education,” Padalino said. “She knows everyone, everyone knows her, she loves the school district and she loves Kingston. She’s a great asset and will be a great addition to the Board, for sure.”
The tax levy increase as presented in the KCSD’s budget is below the district’s 3.64 cap introduced by New York State. It follows a 2021-22 budget which didn’t raise the tax levy 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.
Spending down, taxes up in New Paltz
The New Paltz Central School District’s $68,999,093 budget for the 2022-23 school year passed by a margin of 801 to 281. 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.
School Board President Bianca Tanis and challenger Matthew Williams were both unopposed in their bids for a seat on the Board of Education.
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 (ARPA) 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 ARPA, 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.
One seat too close to call for Onteora
The Onteora Central School District’s $59,991,639 budget passed by a margin of 592-170. The spending plan comes with a 1.29 percent tax levy increase.
Two of the three seats on the School Board were settled on Tuesday night, with Sarah Hemingway Lynch picking up 583 votes, and Meghann Reimondo 527 votes. The third seat will either go to Leon Savage, who earned 349 votes, or Kristy Taylor, who garnered 345. That seat will be determined by a count of affidavit votes.
“Congratulations to our new trustees,” said School Board President Kevin Salem. “We are very much looking forward to working with you. It’s a very rewarding job.”
The budget represents a $1,207,496 increase, or 2.054 percent over the current $58,784,143 spending plan.
An added ballot proposition asking voters for permission to use $675,000 to abate deteriorating asbestos floor tiles throughout the district passed by a margin of 646-112.
The budget 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 Act (ARPA) 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 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 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.
Ball, Bellarosa, Polston win Saugerties District board seats
The Saugerties Central School District earned voter approval on a $66,426,716 budget for the 2022-23 school year by a margin of 1,038-444. The spending plan is a decrease of $110,249 from the 2021-22 budget. Since presenting a draft budget in mid-March, the district also reduced the tax levy increase from 2.7 percent to 2.36 percent.
Winning seats on the Board of Education were Bill Ball, Christine Bellarosa, and Scott Polston. Randi Kelder, Danielle Carter, and Vincent McLaughlin did not earn enough votes to pick up a seat. No vote tallies were revealed by the district as of press time.
“Thank you to all of the Board of Education candidates for their interest in helping to lead the Saugerties Central School District,” read a post on the district’s official Facebook profile.
The budget was put together with the understanding that state aid was likely to decrease due to 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 $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 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.