The Saugerties Central School District’s Board of Education is considering a $71,192,559 budget for the 2023-24 school year. If approved, it would represent an increase of $4,765,843, or 7.17 percent, over the 2022-23 spending plan.
The preliminary budget figures were presented by the district’s business official Jane St. Amour to the School Board during a meeting held on Tuesday, March 21. The spending plan would come with a tax levy increase of 3.96 percent, the maximum allowed by the state for the district to be able to pass with a simple majority.
In terms of both dollars and percentages, the district will see the greatest increase in its debt service line, which will jump by 152.88 percent to $2,502,719. Debt service includes an Ulster BOCES capital project, with principal and interest on a bond anticipation note due for a July 2023 payment. Also on the line is a principal and interest bond anticipation note for the district’s own $22 million capital project. St. Amour stressed that much of the debt service line will be offset by an increase in state building aid, which is estimated to be $1,392,022.
Other anticipated increases in expenditures include sports and co-curriculars (26.78 percent increase to $770,813); facilities, security and central services (11.97 percent increase to $3,841,269); technology (9.42 percent increase to $1,605,462); transportation (9.04 percent increase to $5,535,280); instruction, including salaries (4.49 percent to $34,553,763); BOCES administration and capital projects (4.15 percent to $948,014); Board of Education and central administration (3.98 percent to $1,879,780) and benefits (2.49 percent to $19,130,459).
St. Amour said the increase in the facilities, security and central services line was due to several factors, including an enhanced facility evaluation as required by the State Education Department; personnel changes, including security guards and a new director of facilities; and districtwide replacement of AED (automated external defibrillator) machines.
“We currently have ten, and they’re still working but they’re getting older and it’s a suggestion from health and safety perspective to replace for newer models,” St. Amour said.
Last month, Governor Kathy Hochul released her executive budget, which for the SCSD included an overall increase of 12.43 percent in total aid, or $2,819,726. Foundation Aid would also rise by 5.43 percent, or $900,205, and increases in universal pre-K aid ($762,339, up from $448,382) and transportation ($2,991,593, up from $2,249,247) were also mooted. The district’s preliminary budget includes a modest increase in aid beyond the executive budget of around $23,000, which would bring the total to $24,759,439, but it’s possible the legislature could secure even more for the district when it comes back with its spending plan next week.
There is also hope that the legislative budget will accept fully funding Foundation Aid, will fund a study on the Foundation Aid formula, and will including funding for universal school meals.
Between State Aid projections and the local tax levy, the preliminary budget shows a remaining deficit of $419,474, modest compared to some other districts but still a hurdle the SCSD must solve. St. Amour said she hopes to overcome any deficit without having to tap into specific reserves.
“We don’t typically like to appropriate fund balance unless it’s for one-time expenses,” St. Amour said.
Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt expressed confidence that the district will be able to present a balanced budget while ensuring its students receive a good education.
“We’re going to be able to close that 400,000 and we’re continuing to add opportunities for students,” Reinhardt said.
Among the additions to the district are a school advocacy specialist, lead teachers, special education teacher aides and assistants and bus monitors. The preliminary budget would also fund the replacement of the district’s mail van, a van for athletic equipment transportation, replacement of computers and 3D printers for use by technology students and an oboe for the Saugerties High School music department.
The Board of Education is set to adopt the budget on Tuesday, April 18, by which time it could look quite different than the preliminary presentation. The district will hold a public hearing on the budget on Tuesday, May 9. On Tuesday, May 16, the public will be able to vote on the budget, as well as open seats on the School Board.