By Shelley R. Clapper
During the Warwick Valley School District Board of Education meeting on Mon., Dec. 11, Superintendent Dr. David Leach reported on the Capital Project vote that was held on Thurs., Dec. 7. Voters approved the project which allows the District to make repairs and improvements to each of the Districts four schools. Dr. Leach said that voters approved the capital projects by 582 to 160 or 78.4 percent.
“It was pleasing that this was a 40 percent increase in the number of voters compared to prior Capital Project votes,” said Dr. Leach.
No Financial Impact on Taxpayers
Dr. Leach explained that the capital project is designed to have no financial impact on taxpayers by taking advantage of aid that New York State offers to encourage communities to maintain their schools. He said that State aid, along with the fund set aside in the Districts capital reserve, eliminates any additional costs to the taxpayers. The capital project references the tax levy as the District is legally required to pledge the levy.
NYS Budget & Federal Tax Changes
In reference to federal tax legislation changes Dr. Leach said, “It appears that significant changes in federal tax legislation are on the horizon, which New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called ‘an economic death blow’ to the State. As Superintendent of Schools, I am particularly concerned that these changes could pose a significant challenge to our local taxpayers and school budget.”
If approved, the new federal tax plan has the potential to divert even more State and local funding from schools said Leach. Schools across New York are already shortchanged billions of dollars in State aid and it has been reported that the State faces a potential $4.4 billion budget gap.
“Governor Andrew Cuomo expects to cover most of the deficit through unspecified cuts that come from holding State spending growth to two percent or less according to the State’s revised financial plan, released on Friday,” said Dr. Leach. “The House and Senate must still combine their tax bills and pass a final version. A provision of the tax plan would sharply reduce State and local tax (often called SALT) deductions, a proposal that could impact many Warwick residents,” said Dr. Leach.
The average SALT deduction in New York State is $22,169. Dr. Leach expressed his concern that voters, whose tax burdens rise without the deductions, may be less inclined to support local school budgets.
School Security & Safety a Priority
Dr. Leach reported that he was having ongoing discussions with Warwick Police Lieutenant John Rader in an effort to make school security and safety a priority.
“As we move into the New Year students and their families will see an increased presence of law enforcement in all of our schools,” said Dr. Leach.
He added that the District currently employs a police officer at the high school and is looking to add an officer to the middle school in January.
Dr. Leach thanked Assistant Superintendent of Business Timothy Holmes and his office for all the work they put into preparing for the Capital Vote and to the District’s Communication Office for all the work they did getting the information out to the public.
‘I Love My Librarian’ Award
Dr. Leach congratulated Albert Wisner Public Library Director Rosemary Cooper, on behalf of the School District for receiving the prestigious 2017 “I Love My Librarian” award. Dr. Leach said that he was proud of her and that the District is very fortunate to have such an outstanding public library in the community. He added that the District appreciates the continued partnership with the Albert Wisner Public Library.
Solar Project Update
The work on the solar project at the Sanfordville Elementary School is nearing completion and is expected to begin generating electricity by New Year’s Day. Con Ed is finishing testing the solar field and Orange and Rockland Utilities will finish inspecting it in the coming week. The District is conservatively projecting a $250,000 yearly total net savings from the project.
Next Board Business Meeting
The next regular Board meeting will be held on Mon., Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center, located at 225 West St. in Warwick.