Story by Lisa Rice
The Warwick Middle School Guitar Club performed for the Warwick Central School District Board of Education at the regular school board meeting on Mon., Feb. 10. Students performed “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and The Waves and “High Hopes” by Panic at the Disco following their concert held at the High School the previous Friday evening.
Budget Considers Enrollment & State Aid
Superintendent Dr. David Leach updated the school board on where he and Assistant Superintendent James Yap are on the 2020-2021 budget, which will be put to public vote in May.
He first detailed the budget planning process and described the role of long range planning. Using statistics provided by Sussex BOCES, a ten-year forecast is made that includes looking at the number of anticipated births, the population breakdown, housing trends, and anticipated non-public school enrollment, which is lower in Warwick (5.8%) than in either the county (19.1%) or the state (14%). Dr. Leach reported that the enrollment forecast from 2020 through 2029 appears relatively stable. However, the forecasts are not always correct. Leach noted that in 2014 the projected enrollment for 2024 was 2,769 students district-wide and latest forecasts enrollment at 3,544 students in 2024; a 25% increase over what was expected.
Warwick One of ‘Wealthiest’ School Districts
The superintendent then described how New York State allocates $27 billion educational aid among its 700 districts. The goal in Albany, according to Leach echoing the governor’s own statements, is to give 85% of educational aid to the high need districts, leaving 15% to be divided up amongst the rest.
Districts are divided into tiers, for example, big cities, small cities, wealthy districts. New York City and Long Island are promised half of the state aid; the Big 4 (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) are given 8%; the lower Hudson Valley gets 6%; and the remainder is divided among the rest of the state.
Determining how the tax dollars allocated to individual schools is done by looking at the wealth of the school compared to other surrounding schools. Warwick is in the highest wealth group, Tier E. To emphasize the inequality in the current system, Leach pointed out that other schools in Tier E include Scarsdale and Chappaqua. The Scarsdale School district relies on state aid to fund 4.3% of its annual budget and Chappaqua relies on 7.8% of their budget to be funded by the state. In sharp contrast, Warwick relies on the state to provide for 27% of its annual expenses. Warwick receives .30% of the allocated funds for the area and fails to keep up with inflation.
“We want to provide the best education and remain fiscally responsible,” stated Leach, reporting that the district has kept tax levy increase at an average of 1.77% for the past five years. He credits the resourcefulness of the district with holding the tax levy down by earning money through renting vacant buildings and tuitioning students from neighboring districts. It is unclear how long the district can sustain keeping tax levies under 2% without cutting programs unless something changes with the allocation of state aid.
Contact Your Representative
Dr. Leach requested advocacy from the board and the public, encouraging them to reach out to State Senator Jen Metzger, and Assemblyman Karl Brabanec and Assemblyman Colin Schmitt. The Warwick School District is asking that New York State minimum foundation aid increases be indexed to inflation, and for the state to fund new mandates and new requests with new funding. A board member suggested it may also make sense to try and have Warwick removed from Tier E as a simpler solution.
High School Student Accomplishments
Warwick’s student member, Natalie Daigle reported on happenings at the High School, including some impressive accomplishments by students. The Robotics Club won the New York Excelsior Yonkers Qualifier and will compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge Championship at SUNY Polytechnic in Utica in March.
Senior Henry Prevost won the Eastern New York State Subregional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium and will move onto the Statewide competition. Junior Daniel Jackson broke the Warwick Valley High School Swim Team record in the 100-meter breaststroke, with a time of 1.00.94, qualifying for the state championship.
$5K Scholarship Established
The Board approved a motion to establish The Stocken Family Scholarship which will provide $5,000 per year to a senior that will attend a SUNY school and major in Business Administration or Economics. The scholarship will be paid directly to the college on behalf of the recipient.
The School Board adopted the 2020-2021 student calendar, which includes a one-week mid-February recess. Field trips were approved for High School cosmetology students to go to the Jacob Javits Center and for the music students to go to Hershey Park this spring.
Approval was also granted for the use of the two elementary schools for before/after school care programs for the 2020/2021 school year.
The next meeting of the School Board will be held on Mon., Mar. 23 at the Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center, located at 225 West. St. in Warwick.