Story by Shelley R. Clapper
At the Warwick School Board meeting on Mon., Feb. 13, Superintendent Dr. David Leach provided a presentation on the Process and Revenues of the school budget.
Leach said that the goals in the budget development process continue to enhance student opportunities while staying within the tax cap threshold.
The Process of Developing the School Budget
“The first step in constructing a new school budget is to create a ‘rollover’ budget which serves as a starting point. The rollover budget is usually followed by the Governor’s Executive Budget announcement at the end of January, which includes estimated state aid. State aid represents about 28 percent of the District’s revenue. The District bases its early budget calculation on the state aid runs generated from the executive budget,” said Leach.
“However these numbers often change when the state budget is adopted. The actual state aid numbers may not be known until August because several categories of state aid are expense-driven, meaning the district is reimbursed a percentage of the cost of certain items, such as Capital projects and certain BOCES services,” said Dr. Leach.
Tax Levy Limit Calculations Due by Mar. 1
Dr. Leach said that the District is required to submit their tax levy limit calculations by Wed., Mar. 1 and that the Assistant Superintendent of Business Timothy Holmes will follow the New York State tax cap formula to determine the district’s maximum allowable tax levy limit.
Leach reviewed the last three year tax levy increase. In 2014-2015 there was a 1.75 percent increase, in 2015-2016 there was a 1.42 percent increase and in 2016-2017 there was zero percent increase. The last ten year average annual increase was 1.81 percent.
Leach continued to explain the budget process. He said, “Now with the working budget, state aid estimates and the tax levy limit the District determines any budget gap or additional reductions needed. It appears that the budget gap is approximately $463,000…Before any cuts to programs are suggested we collect and review data to determine which reductions or eliminations can be made with minimal effect on student programs. This budget is a working document that often changes as more information becomes available, such as any changes to state aid as a result of the adoption of the state budget or the finalization of employee contribution rates or health insurance premiums.”
Challenges to the Budget Process
Dr. Leach listed the challenges when starting the budget process, such as the BOCES budget, the cap tax threshold, health insurance benefits and new student programs.
“We are waiting to see what the increase in (health) premiums will be…We are confident that the increase will be at least ten percent,” Dr. Leach said.
The School District is anticipating a $1.4 million increase in health insurance costs. A final budget proposal will be presented to the Board and community in April. The Board must then officially adopt a budget to put before voters.
The next budget presentation will take place at the Board work session on Mon., Feb. 27. There will also be a presentation and an update on school lunches as well as the Comprehensive School Plan at the high school level.
Highlights of Previous Budget Season
Dr. Leach presented a slide show of the highlights of the previous budget season. He said that the 74 percent approval rating was the highest approval of the past 18 years. Another highlight was the five propane buses. At the exit polls 92 percent of the respondents had said that the schools are very good or excellent.
Leach pointed out that there were historic lows in the tax levy while adding new courses. Another highlight was the revenue from non-tax sources which had amounted to $2.6 million dollars, coming primarily from tuition paying students and also from rental properties.
Performing Arts Moment
A Performing Arts Moment was provided prior to the meeting by the High School Womens’ Choir under the direction of Mrs. Noreen Hanson. The choir’s enthusiasm was infectious as they sang, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” by Cindy Lauper.
High School Media Center Opens
Dr. Leach reported that it is a great success and that students were, “Debating about the quality of the coffee and whether CNN or Fox News is better,” while they were enjoying the café center there.
Valentine’s Day for Vets Breakfast
The middle school had hosted its annual Valentine’s Day for Vets breakfast on Wed., Feb. 8. Approximately, 70 Vets had been entertained by the Guitar Club, the Wire Choir and Chorus. Breakfast and snacks had been provided by the Homes and Careers classes.
Focus on Literacy at Park Ave
Leach commended the focus on literacy at Park Ave. Elementary School. The annual school-wide book club had begun called, “One Book, One School,” where students, staff and family read together. They are reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins. The Student Council had performed an original play, “With a life-size freezer filled with snow, ice and penguin buddies, which were distributed to the students along with the books.” Leach added, “Kudos to Principal Sandra Wood and Staff.”
Shrek Jr. at Sanfordville
Leach congratulated the Sanfordville Elementary School Drama Club and Mrs. Della Powderly for the recent musical production of Shrek Junior on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28.
PIE Community Meeting
Leach reported that there had been a PIE meeting on Wed., Feb. 8, which over 100 parents, teachers and community members, learning more about the future of PIE in the District. There was a discussion about having a PIE fifth to sixth grade at the middle school.
There were two budget presentations at the meeting presented by Dr. Leach.
The next school board business meeting is scheduled to take place on Mon., Mar. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center, located at 225 West St. in Warwick.