Board of Education reviews budget, decides not to exceed state tax levy limit

Superintendent Susan Swartz began the budget meeting on Monday night by reviewing the items that have been proposed – beyond the $56.6 million “roll over” budget that she presented on Feb. 12.

That budget created a $1.3 million gap between expected costs and revenues when following the state’s tax levy limit or “tax cap” for Scotia-Glenville – a 3.46 percent increase in the tax levy.

The community vote on the capital project, budget, bus purchase proposal and Board of Education members is scheduled for 7 a.m. (note the new starting time) to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15 in the B-wing gymnasium at the high school, Sacandaga Road.

Future budget meetings will be held on Mondays, March 19 and 26 at 7 p.m. at the Middle School.

Many proposals for the 2018-19 budget

Swartz noted these new staffing positions have been requested:

  • Mental Health Services proposal at the high school as presented at the Feb. 12 meeting
  • 1.0 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Special Education teacher
  • .4 FTE Guidance Counselor
  • .4 FTE School Psychologist
  • 1.0 FTE Special Education Teaching Assistant
  • 1.0 Teaching Assistant for Library Media Center
  • 1.0 FTE Behavior Specialist/ Counselor/ Social Worker for Elementary
  • 2 hrs./day additional Teaching Assistant salary

She also said several “items” have been requested, such as round cafeteria tables, additional 5th grade field trip money, laminator, xylophone, construction of partitions in the Gathering Space at the Middle School, extra secretarial help, library chairs, library databases, library book bin, increased funding for food science course, establish National Elementary Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society, expand teacher mentoring program, funding for Unified Basketball and Bowling, additional funding for uniforms and additional professional development money for Physical Education staff.

Many of these items will be paid from the current budget, so they will not have an impact on the 2018-19 budget year.

Board members had also requested: Mental Health Services, School Resource Officers or other security staff and restoration of a class section at Sacandaga . Her presentation shows the class sizes between the four elementary schools.

While she said she supports many of the requests, to maintain all current programs and honor the 2018 – 2019 requests would require $3.6 million in new spending – and create a tax increase of about 9 percent. That figure does not include adding SROs or security staff.

Swartz said she plans to plan to proceed in this fashion:

  • “Maintain what we have,” including keeping current bus transportation guidelines, with an interest in adding mental health services.
  • She will ask the elementary principals to evaluate all services and staff to ensure those are being delivered in the best way possible.
  • If it were possible, she would also increase the high school guidance and psychologist positions to full time.

Staying within the state’s tax levy limit

Board members said they supported staying within the state’s tax levy limit for Scotia-Glenville, especially since there is also a capital project proposal on the May 15 ballot.

Board members Pam Carbone and Gary Normington both strongly supported adding mental health services at the high school. Each said they would consider exceeding the tax levy limit if we were unable to provide the mental health services, but they would prefer not to exceed the cap.

“When I look at the mental health services, I have to think, what is the cost of not doing something,” said Normington.

Board President David Bucciferro, who has worked in the mental health services field for years , said he supports adding mental health services but “I think we need to do as much as we can within the 3.46 (state tax levy limit).”

Board member Dan Feinberg also noted that, thanks to the federal tax rewrite, school taxes will no longer be fully deductible on the community’s tax returns beginning this year.

The $56.6 million “roll over” budget that Swartz presented to the Board of Education on Feb. 12 includes all programs and services now provided to students. Spending would increase by 5.99 percent or $3.2 million in 2018-19 over the current school year budget of $53.4 million.

The resulting gap between projected costs and revenue is $1.3 million in 2018-19. She noted that some adjustments would be made. For example, the cost savings from 12 retirements have not been factored into these figures yet.

Swartz noted a few areas from the budget:

  • Health insurance rates are expected to increase by 8-9 percent
  • Teacher and employee retirement costs are expected to remain stable with little change
  • Debt service, to pay for the 2015 capital project and energy performance contract, will increase by $1.034 million but that will be offset by a $604,444 increase in state building aid to cover some of that cost
  • Overall state aid – 37.3 percent of S-G’s revenue – will increase by 5.13 percent or $1.03 million. However, a large share of that – $604,444 – is reimbursement for money already spent on the capital project, transportation or with BOCES programs.