BOE eyes nearly $33.7M school budget

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

The board of education is mulling a school budget of nearly $33.7 million for the 2022-23 school year. File photo

GREENVILLE — The board of education is eyeing a school budget of nearly $33.7 million for the Greenville Central School District.

District officials presented the program component of the preliminary budget, which is still being fine tuned, at the Feb. 28 meeting of the board of education.

The 2021-22 budget that was approved by voters last year stands at $32,886,167, and the preliminary budget now in the works for the coming academic year is $33,685,615, which represents an increase of $799,449, or 2.43% compared to this year’s budget.

In January, district officials outlined the rollover budget, which reflects the current budget and — assuming no programming or staffing levels are changed — increases that are expected, such as contractual costs, salaries, health insurance and retirement contributions.

Since January, officials have been meeting with faculty and staff to determine what changes should be made to the rollover budget.

“Over the course of a few weeks in between I have received the budget requests from everybody and right now we are looking at a 2022-23 preliminary budget of $33,685,615, which is an increase of $286,743, or a 0.87% increase since the rollover budget,” Budget Official Janet Maassmann said. “This also is an increase of $799,448, or 2.43%, from the budget that we are in now.”

District Superintendent Tammy Sutherland said there are still some financial details coming in that could change the bottom line.

Adjustments made to the rollover budget include expenses for BOCES services, which have been solidified; occupational therapy; a communication specialist; additional clerical hours to support several administrators; increased inter-fund transfers to capital for building improvements; staff retirements; and costs for health insurance premiums.

The district is looking to add a line to the budget for a communication specialist, either by contracting out through BOCES a couple of days a week or hiring from within.

“This is something we have talked about for years,” Sutherland said. “In fact, we had it many, many years ago and it did not survive some budget cuts in our leaner years. We can’t communicate enough externally and internally, and it has just been a real need for this district for a very long time, so we will try to do our best, but there are definitely communication lags or gaps.”

The additional clerical hours would support administrators with their duties.

“This is another thing that we have actually talked about for many years at the administrative level,” Sutherland said. “We have four administrators that do not have clerical support.”

Several staff members have notified the district of their impending retirement, which would lead to cost savings in the budget.

“At this point, we have seven individuals retiring and that breakage is $292,370, so that’s a savings to the budget,” Sutherland said.

K-12 Principal Matthew Berkshire outlined expected enrollment changes in the district from this year to next.

Elementary school enrollment is expected to remain steady at 474 students this year and 476 next year, and the student population is predicted to drop slightly in the middle school, from 256 this year to 233 next year. But those figures will be offset by a slight rise in the number of high schoolers, from 355 this year to 369 next year. Overall, the student population from kindergarten to 12th grade is expected to stay steady at 1,085 this year compared to 1,078 next year.

One area that has seen a substantial uptick in the last two years has been the number of homeschoolers, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications.

“We are anticipating to remain relatively consistent with our enrollment projections. It’s important to note our homeschool population has grown considerably since the 2019-20 school year,” Berkshire said.

In the coming school year, 88 students are expected to be home schooled, compared to 53 in 2019-20, prior to COVID.

The preliminary budget reflects an increase of $19,695, or 3.8%, in technology purchases and contracts, Director of Technology Scott Gardiner said. The district has implemented a long-range technology purchasing plan to spread out expenses over several years.

Pupil Personnel Services has a decrease in funding in the preliminary budget in the amount $202,500 due to a reduced need for special education services, Brook Van Fleet, director of special education and pupil personnel services, said.

“There is a decrease of monies needed for tuition based on [the fact that] we have two students who are aging out of an out-of-district placement program,” Van Fleet said. “They are turning 21 at the end of this school year, so therefore you see a savings for them. Special ed is ever changing based on the needs of the students.”

Districtwide equipment purchases are allocated $2,170 less in the preliminary budget, a decline of 8.42%. Included in the requests from faculty is equipment for the middle and high school career and technical education program, along with the agriculture class, according to the district.

Costs for BOCES service requests for specialized programming like Tech Valley, New Visions and Career-Tech, among others, has an 11.18% increase, or a $94,553 jump in the budget, because the number of students in those programs over the past five years has increased.

The budget for the athletics and physical education department remains steady, said Denise Wickham, director of physical education, health and athletics.

“This year the athletics budget hasn’t changed a lot,” Wickham said.

One area that has been a continual challenge for the Greenville district — and for many districts nationwide — is a shortage of bus drivers. Greenville drivers travel about 1,700 miles per day, covering approximately 135 square miles on 28 daily routes, five late bus routes and three early pick-up routes for specialized programs, Transportation Supervisor Mary Judeikis said.

“This year has been very challenging to say the least,” Judeikis said. “We have four open routes. Two of the routes I have temporarily absorbed into other routes just so we can make it work every day. We have one new driver in training, which we are happy about.”

The district has lost more than a dozen drivers in the past year, she said.

“Since January of 2021, we have lost 14 drivers due to the pandemic, resignations and retirements,” Judeikis said.

The tax levy has been set at 3.33% for the coming school year, meaning the district can increase the budget by that amount with a simple majority of voters’ approval. But the district is not looking to go that high, Sutherland said.

“The tax cap calculation for the 2022-23 school year is coming in at 3.33%, so while it’s not our proposal, by any means, to go out that high, if we look at the budget right now and based on what you will be reviewing next week also, right now we are at around 2.35%, so that is still just about 1% under what we are allowed to go out with for a simple majority,” Sutherland told the board.

The preliminary budget is still being finetuned. Another budget meeting was scheduled for March 7, too late for this publication, and then the board of education is expected to vote to adopt the tentative budget at its April 11 meeting.

A budget hearing has been scheduled for May 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Middle/High School auditorium, and then voters will have the final say when the budget vote and board of education election is held May 17, from 1-9 p.m., in the Scott M. Ellis Elementary School cafeteria.

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