Niskayuna budget proposal eyes new teachers to keep class sizes from growing

The sign at the entrance to the Niskayuna Central School District office is shown.
The sign at the entrance to the Niskayuna Central School District office is shown.

NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Central School District’s preliminary 2019-2020 budget would increase the tax levy by 2.3 percent and hire new teachers to limit elementary class sizes as student enrollment grows.

The budget proposal, which Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. presented to the school board Tuesday night, would bring the district’s overall general fund spending to about $87.5 million next school year.

The proposed levy increase stays within the district’s tax cap and compares to a 2.6 percent levy increase its voters approved last year.

The school board has scheduled two more meetings to discuss the budget before adopting it and sending to voters May 21. It adds three new elementary school teachers so the district can add fourth- and fifth-grade class sections. These new sections will help the district maintain its class-size targets as enrollment gradually increases.

The plan also adds slightly less than three art and music teacher positions in order to increase music instruction for kindergartners and serve new class sections. The proposed hire of a new librarian would put one librarian in each of the district’s two middle schools, and an increase in English as a new language teaching hours would serve increased student needs.

“There are 35 languages spoken in the district,” Tangorra said at the meeting. “That’s a great asset, but the students who don’t speak English as their native language need support.”

Nearly three positions would be focused on supporting the district’s students with disabilities, including a new social worker at Birchwood.

Iroqouis Middle School social studies teacher Dennis Frank told the school board that all students are in need of social worker support and called for an increase in teacher assistants and time devoted to planning before the school year started.

The budget proposal includes funding to hire two new technology technicians along with a half-time director of information technology. Tangorra said new hiring in the technology department has been deferred in recent years as the district sought to restore other positions, but he said the investments were desperately needed as the district continues to increase its use of technology in schools.

“We also have been woefully, woefully understaffed in technology, embarrassingly understaffed for a district as technologically engaged as this community,” he said. “If we are going to continue to be a world-class organization, we need to put the proper support behind our information technology staff.”

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