Saratoga County

School spending headed higher

The preliminary Mechanicville City School District budget calls for a spending increase of 5.43 p

PHOTOGRAPHER:

The preliminary Mechanicville City School District budget calls for a spending increase of 5.43 percent and a tax increase of 4.43 percent.

The $20.3 million proposed budget for next year is $1.05 million higher than this year’s spending plan.

Business Manager Marilyn Valla said it’s too early to predict how the proposed tax increase will affect property owners because assessments and equalization rates haven’t been calculated yet.

The district has taxpayers in Mechanicville, Halfmoon, Stillwater and Schaghticoke.

“I feel that it’s a very fair budget,” Valla said. “If we were to get a negative vote, the amount that we would have to cut out to get down to what, by law, we could have as a budget, it’s very close.”

Teacher and bus driver employee benefits are expected to increase $167,320 over last year, according to a presentation made by Valla on Thursday to the school board.

District transportation is also expected to increase by $164,852 to $965,299 next year.

Another increase in the proposed budget is for a new curriculum coordinator for K-12 that would work to ease students’ transition between grade levels.

“She has to be sure that what the kids are learning in a certain grade will prepare them for what they need to know in the next grade,” Valla said. “It’s really necessary.”

Board member Frank Grimaldi agreed with Valla and said most school districts already have a curriculum coordinator.

“It gives [students] a balance from year to year,” Grimaldi said. “They’re getting mixed signals.”

The district has about 1,380 students, according to its Web site.

The new coordinator would also direct staff development and would get a salary of about $60,000, Valla said.

Officials also want to spend $18,000 to increase a Spanish teacher at the elementary school from part time to full time.

Grimaldi said he thought the extra spending for the Spanish teacher was worth it because it will prepare pupils for high school Spanish.

The proposed budget also calls for a new kindergarten teacher for an integrated class that includes general education and special education students.

The salary for the new teacher is expected to be $37,100, Valla said.

Almost half of the district’s revenue — about $9.6 million — is expected to come from state aid next year, an increase of $631,066 over this year.

The total tax levy is proposed at just under $9.9 million for next year.

“I think that all of the administrators and departments tried to focus on what’s necessary,” Valla said. “That way, it makes it easier for the board to decide what should be included.”

Grimaldi said the school board plans to continue working on the budget and will try to make more spending cuts.

District voters twice defeated a spending plan in 2006 that called for a tax increase of 6.5 percent, but voters easily passed the 2007-08 budget last year that increased taxes by 4.54 percent.

This year’s budget vote is scheduled for May 20.

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