Board of Education reviews proposed reductions in 2021-22 budget

Superintendent Susan Swartz, in what she called Tier 1 reductions, proposed on March 15 not replacing two retiring teachers – at kindergarten and grade 2 at Glendaal – to create a $200,000 reduction in the proposed 2021-22 budget.

She explained that Glendaal is slated to have 28 incoming kindergarten students this fall. Glen-Worden will have two classes of 16 students each. By moving eight of the kindergarten students (who do not have siblings at Glendaal) from Glendaal to Glen-Worden, that would create 20 students in all three kindergarten classes in the fall.

Right now, at Glendaal, there is one grade 1 class section. That grade 1 class will move up next year to grade 2, and only require one teacher in grade 2. That is where the second reduction would happen, a retiring grade 2 teacher at Glendaal would not be replaced.

“By not replacing those two teachers, that would create a $200,000 savings and leave a tax levy increase of 2.02%,” said Swartz. “That will be a pretty painless way of creating a large savings.”

She returned on March 22 with an additional $100,000 in Tier 2 reductions – eliminating one teaching assistant position, one aide position and reductions in technology and substitute spending. However, board members rejected those reductions, saying they preferred to stay at the $200,000 Tier 1 reduction level she had outlined on March 15.

The community will consider the 2021-22 budget during in-person voting from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 18 or through absentee ballot.

Business Administrator Andrew Giaquinto, in response to questions from board members, said a $300,000 reduction would have led to an approximate 1.7% tax levy increase.

Several board members said they were happy with the Tier 1 reductions and felt Swartz should stop there. Other board members on March 15 had asked to see more specifics on the Tier 2 reductions.

Board members argued that a majority of tax increases over the past decade have been in the 2% range, though they did acknowledge that times are more difficult now because of the COVID-19 outbreak. At the March 22 meeting, Swartz showed that the last three budgets included tax rate increases of more than 2.6% per year.

Board members also talked about opportunities to raise additional revenue, such as by leasing out the turf field. However, right now, all of the varsity sports teams are practicing and playing on that field.

Non-negotiables and assumptions

Swartz began the March 15 budget work session by reviewing the list of “non-negotiable” reductions the Board of Education had indicated at the March 1 meeting.

The areas that the board does not want to touch in the budget are: Mental Health Services, Professional Development for Social Emotional Learning and Return to School, Reading Intervention, Guidance Keep all academic programming, Fine Arts, Advanced Placement and College in the HS and Academic Support Services.

A few items were also on her “wish list,” such as technology in classrooms (plans are to have Chromebooks for all students, grades 3-12), software applications, an athletic trainer and extra-curricular options, clubs and coaches.

Swartz also said it is still unclear how things will look in September, but she has made some assumptions in order to create the 2021-22 budget. Those assumptions are:

● All staff and students will return in September for full-day instruction.
● We will see a need for additional academic and social emotional support to students.
● Staff and students will be masked but the requirements for social distancing will be relaxed, allowing for additional students in classrooms.
● We will offer two (not three) a.m. and p.m. bus runs and school times will revert to pre-COVID times.
● We will continue to have additional cleaning and disinfecting needs.
● We will continue to provide breakfast. lunch, and meals to all students.
● If a remote option is required, we will make it available through a
regional approach.

Small state-allowed tax levy increase

With a very small state tax levy cap increase of 0.13%, the Board of Education is considering exceeding the state cap.

The cap means that the 8-step state formula to determine the tax levy cap will allow S-G to increase spending by $40,310 in the 2021-22 school year.

Swartz on February 22 presented the “carry-forward budget” for the 2021-22 school year. That budget continues every program and staff person currently in the school budget. The figures show spending increasing by 2.01% or $1.1 million in the 2021-22 school year. The 2021-22 carry forward budget totals $59.3 million, an increase from the current school year budget of $58.1 million.

The gap between revenue and spending in the carry-forward budget is $785,956. If there were no reductions, that would lead to a 2.66% tax levy increase – something the board and superintendent have said the school district will avoid.

The community decides on May 18

On May 18 (unless the date is changed as happened last year), the S-G community will consider these proposals:

  • 2021-22 school budget
  • $493,000 bus purchase proposal for four, 72-passenger buses
  • $12.8 million capital project for roofs, furnaces and public address systems at all six schools
  • Selecting two Board of Education members. The terms of current Board of Education members David Massaro and Hal Talbot expire this year.