Voters in May will decide on a $46.65 million budget and two propositions totaling $11.9 million to renovate school buildings.
The Board of Education approved a $46,651,381 budget on Monday to put before voters. The proposed tax rate increase would be 2.97 percent. However, school officials said that the tax rate increase could be eliminated altogether once the district adds money from the federal stimulus package.
The budget is the first proposition that will be on the May 19 ballot. The second proposition would be spending $475,000 to purchase five 65-passenger school buses.
The third and fourth propositions involve the building project.
Proposition 3 would spend $9,317,000 to fix roofs at all of the elementary schools except Glendaal, as well as the middle school and bus garage. Also, the project would replace the current six-lane track with one the same size, replace the boiler and water heater at Glendaal, upgrade the district’s more than 10-year-old technology server and replace the public address system and clocks at all six schools.
Proposition 4 is an option to renovate and enclose the middle school library for $2,570,000. School officials said Proposition 3 has to pass for Proposition 4 to pass because it is part of the overall project.
The district plans to use money from its Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning (EXCEL) grant as well as funds from its debt reserve so the local tax impact would be minimal. A total of $190,000 in prior debt would be paid off with the passage of propositions 3 and 4.
Superintendent Susan Swartz said there have been cuts in the budget to get the tax rate lower. The district will not replace two retiring elementary teachers. It will also cut part-time positions in English, science, mathematics, social studies, foreign language and art. The district is also shifting positions around, including moving a physical education teacher from the middle school to the high school.
Swartz had not wanted to replace Joseph Kavanaugh, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, until perhaps January. She and the board reached a compromise in which his replacement will start on Nov. 1.
Swartz said she thinks the district could get to a zero tax increase with the stimulus money. However, she cautioned the board about adding positions back in because the budget will be tight in future years.
Another compromise was reached over the Young Scholars program. Swartz had initially wanted to end the BOCES contract and bring the gifted and talented program in house. The program would consist of a half-day humanities program run by BOCES and a half-day math and science program run in house.
Board member Ben Conlon worried about the coming years. The unions declined to make any concessions. Pension costs are skyrocketing, and there will come a time when the district will have to make staff cuts.
“The cuts are going to have to be pretty steep. We wouldn’t have to if the bargaining units had come forward and said we’ll take a reduction now,” he said.
The budget pleased Scott Phillips of Glenville, whose son Luke plans to attend Tech Valley High School in the fall. The board had considered reducing the number of students it sends to the school from three to two but was persuaded to put the money back in the budget.