Voters to decide on proposed $90.8 million budget in June 9 absentee ballot-only vote
Niskayuna Central School District voters will decide on a proposed $90.8 million budget for the 2020-21 school year that preserves all classroom teaching positions and student support programs and does not exceed the district’s tax levy limit.
Due to COVID-19, this year’s vote is being conducted by absentee ballot only, with the school district sending a ballot and return postage to qualified voters. The deadlines for receiving completed ballots are different based upon if they are being hand delivering to drop boxes at the District Office or Niskayuna High School or if the ballot is being returned by U.S. Mail. Ballots must be received by the district by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9, if they are being hand delivered to a drop box and by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16, if they are being returned by U.S. Mail.
The budget contains a tax levy increase of 2.15%, which is at the district’s cap for the year. The spending increase, largely comprised of growth in salaries, health insurance and required pension contributions, is roughly $3.3 million or 3.80%.
The proposal preserves all elementary and middle school teachers, provides for the continued phase-in of the elementary class size management plan, and maintains all school social workers and high school teachers based on student course requests for next year.
Reductions in those areas, as well as a higher tax levy increase, were considered throughout the budget process. However, in light of the impact of COVID-19, the Board of Education prioritized keeping the tax levy at the cap and preserving classroom teachers and others who work most closely with students.
“We have made significant progress in recent years through investments in managing elementary and middle school class size, increasing student mental health support, and making targeted program enhancements at all levels. That progress continues with this budget,” said Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. “This was not an easy budget process, but there is no doubt that it meets the needs of our students as we head into a year that will contain some uncertainty.”
This uncertainty includes a state budget that provides for three “look-back periods” in which school funding can be reduced based on actual state spending and revenues throughout the year. In light of this possibility, the district is proactively anticipating a 10% state aid cut in the proposed budget.
Increased use of fund balance, or district savings, as well as budget reductions that will have a minimal impact on student programs, helped close a budget gap identified at the start of the process. Savings accrued from the prolonged COVID-19 school closure were factored into the use of more fund balance to help preserve positions.
The approximately 16 positions reduced in the budget include positions that are being vacated due to retirement and leaving some currently open positions unfilled.
Throughout the budget process, district leaders recognized the impact that the school closure is having on students and the need to be flexible and make adjustments as needed in the year ahead. The district will be prepared to assess student learning and provide extra help and support to bridge gaps and recover credits within the proposed budget.