Tax levy increase in draft budget below the district’s cap
At the March 13 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. outlined an $84.2 million first draft budget for 2018-19 that expands student support systems — which had been identified as a top budget priority. The plan maintains all current student programs, and contains additional staffing to help manage class sizes.
The preliminary budget calls for a 2.64 percent tax levy increase, which is below the district’s tax levy limit. Although this is commonly referred to as a “2 percent” cap, the law requires each district to use a multi-part formula to calculate its limit; For Niskayuna next year, the limit is 3.07 percent.
The Board of Education’s budget calendar calls for the continued review of budget options on March 27 and budget adoption either that evening or in April.
The tax levy and state aid are the district’s two major sources of revenue. State aid in the Governor’s budget proposal was the basis for the first draft budget. That proposal provided minimal growth (less than $200,000) in state Foundation Aid for the district next year. The other aid categories are reimbursements for a portion of certain current-year expenses.
The budget Dr. Tangorra presented on March 13 included a series of additions to meet specific needs and priorities. In particular, district leaders focused on increasing social and emotional support for students:
- The budget includes additional elementary social worker staffing so that there will be a full-time social worker/counselor at each of the five schools.
- At the middle schools, the district plans to transition from a part-time dean of students model to having a full-time assistant principal in each school who is available to students before, during and after school.
- The budget also includes funding to locate a school-based mental health clinic in a district elementary school, an initial step in a partnership with BOCES and the Parsons Child and Family Center that could expand in future years.
Additional teaching staff next year will help manage class sizes at the elementary level, through the continued implementation of the flex zone plan, and at Van Antwerp Middle School.
On March 13, Dr. Tangorra also outlined steps the district is taking to operate efficiently and concentrate limited resources on services that directly benefit students. These efforts include shared transportation services, cooperative bidding, and developing special education programs that limit the cost of out-of-district placements and provide some tuition revenue.
Dr. Tangorra noted that the strategic plan serves as a guide for budget decisions. The plan calls for a focus on curriculum and programs, environment and culture, and partnerships. The additions in the first draft budget are based on strategic areas of focus and needs identified by school leaders through their ongoing work with faculty, staff and families.
As noted above, the budget development process will continue at the Board’s March 27 meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. in the Niskayuna High School Library Media Center.