Schalmont Central School District residents will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 16, to vote on a $47.2 million budget proposed for the 2017-18 school year. After extensive deliberation, the board and administration have developed a budget that includes $800,000 in spending reductions and uses another $800,000 from fund balance. Along with these reductions and use of savings, this district is asking taxpayers to consider a 1.46 percent increase in the tax levy ($406,127). This increase is the district’s tax levy limit or “cap,” which requires a simple majority vote (50 percent plus one) to pass.
Overall, in the proposed budget, spending is up by 1.45 percent (or $675,959) over the current year’s budget. Voters will also decide on a bus purchase proposition and elect two board of education candidates on May 16. Voting will take place at Schalmont High School.
The budget includes the funding to continue many strategic initiatives, including integrating technology into classrooms across the district and offering elective and advanced high school courses. The $800,000 in spending reductions that were made to pare down an initial “rollover” budget so that the tax levy stayed at the district’s cap for next year, include BOCES services, supplies, extracurricular clubs, some athletic expenses, a teaching assistant position and two teaching positions. However, based on enrollment class sizes are not expected to rise.
“We are dedicated to providing the best education possible to our students with the resources that we have available,” Superintendent Dr. Carol Pallas said. “We have been listening closely to our community and made the decisions necessary to stay within the confines of the tax cap. While making cuts is not easy, we worked to develop a balanced budget that continues to meet student needs and prepare them for the future.”
Some retirement savings, state aid and fund balance (district savings) also helped close the gap that was estimated at the start of the process. The funding increase for Schalmont in the final state budget was greater than anticipated, which helped the district be more conservative in the use of savings than initially planned.
The budget process included an Advisory Budget Committee, community forums and Board of Education meetings. Pallas said the message that consistently came through is that families and community members place a high value on education, but are also cognizant of the burden of taxes.
“We are listening and we understand this message,” she said. “Our focus will remain on being as cost-effective and strategic as possible.”
In order to balance the budget, district leaders identified $800,000 in reductions from an initial rollover spending plan. These reductions include:
• The full-time equivalent (FTE) of two teaching positions at the
5th/6th grade level; this is possible due to decreasing enrollment and
would keep classes sizes consistent with the other elementary grades;
• 2.0 FTE teaching assistants;
• A reduction in BOCES special education services, made possible by bringing some students back to the district from BOCES programs and hiring an in-house Teacher of the Deaf;
• A reduction in department supply budgets;
• Reduction of administrator position to 0.5 and hiring new assistant principals as 10 month employees (versus 12 months);
• A reduction in districtwide communications services purchased through BOCES;
• Reductions to non-instructional staff;
• A reduction in extracurricular clubs, junior varsity cheerleading, certain athletic tournaments and transportation
• A reduction of certain elective offerings that have the least student participation;
• Limiting participation in the BOCES New Visions program to students currently enrolled;
• Consolidating bus runs in alignment with the district’s walk/ride policy; and
• A reduction in paper and printer/copier usage
Voters will also consider a separate proposition related to the
purchase of new buses on May 16. The district is proposing to purchase
three new 66-passenger buses, a 28-passenger small bus, and a 24
passenger wheelchair bus at a total cost not to exceed $480,000, which
after state aid is factored in, would cost $230,400.
The number of vehicles in the district's bus fleet would not increase under the proposition because older, heavily-used vehicles that are becoming costly to maintain would be traded in. The older vehicles have logged between 128,000 and 181,000 miles over their lifetime. If approved, the actual cost to the district would be significantly less because of the trade-in value and state aid reimbursements, which cover 51 percent of the cost of buses.
The proposition is part of the district's annual bus replacement plan designed to keep buses in safe, working order while providing stability in the cost to taxpayers.