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ICC expects higher tax cap, more computers

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KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane school board discussed proposed non-instructional expenses for the 2018-19 school year with district Business Manager Michael Brennan at the February 6 board meeting. Non-instructional programs include the district’s Transportation Department, the Central Office, and staffing. But Mr. Brennan said a big portion of this budget is health insurance.

The board also heard about the transition that faces the district as it moves toward having all students take tests on computers.

Last year the non-instructional costs were about $18.8 million of the $39-million budget. This year the district looking at spending $19.2 million on those costs.

“We still have a ways to go on the whole budget season,” Mr. Brennan told the board, saying they will also be reviewing instructional costs, which include the academic programs, extra-curricular activities and the sports program, at the board meeting in March. On April 10, he said he will present the district revenues, including state aid.

Board member Regina Rose asked about the state mandated property tax cap for the new school year. Mr. Brennan said the 2018-19 tax cap is at 3.3%, which is higher than in the past. “The highest we’ve been for the last five years is 2.9%,” he said.

Whether or not the board agrees to create a budget that would meet the tax cap or stay below it, he said, “will be some of the decisions we’ll be making in the next few months.”

The budget referendum decided by district voters in May will also include a resolution on purchasing four new buses. All of the buses will be 72-passenger vehicles and two will have room for luggage for teams to take equipment to away-games. That proposal is separate from the total operating budget.

The district has had a bus proposal on the ballot almost every year since 2010-11, according to Mr. Brennan. The only year the board did not put up a bus proposal was for the 2011-12 school year.

Board member Matthew Nelson said he received a call from a resident asking about purchasing electric powered buses and said there was some state money to help pay for them. Transportation Department head Dan Doyle said that the electric buses cost more than the current buses and that the state funding did not offset the cost enough. He also pointed out the district would need to purchase charging stations as well.

“The cost incentive is not there right now,” Mr. Doyle said.

At the February 6 meeting the board also approved the Rider Goals 2021 with the targets to achieve those goals.

Last month the board discussed one of the Rider Goals–to increase graduation rates and test scores. But members had questions on all five goals and plans to meet those goals, so approval of the goals was tabled to give the board had more time to review them.

Schools Superintendent Michael Vanyo said at this month’s meeting that the board was not approving the Rider Goals’ action plan created by the administration to meet the goals. The board was approving just the goals’ “targets.” Mr. Vanyo said the administrators and board-appointed committees will be regularly reporting to the board about the progress for meeting the goals as they move forward.

One of the five Rider Goals deals about technology. Ms. Rose asked about the action plan to have students take tests on computers.

“We are actually way behind on that,” Mr. Vanyo said.

“It’s basically upon us,” said district performance review Principal Suzanne Guntlow of testing students on computers. She said that the district plans to start a pilot program for computer based testing in the lower grades.

Ms. Rose pointed out that if the district is planning to have computer based testing in all grades it would mean purchasing a lot of computers.

“We’re going to need the computers, the bandwidth,” said Ms. Guntlow. She also said the district will have to work with the lower grades in computer proficiency. “We’re working on a lot of plans to make sure the district is ready and our students are ready,” she said.

Mr. Vanyo said that is why the board is being asked to approve the Rider Goals with targets, which should stay the same. The action plans will have to be worked out over the years to reach those goals.

The next board meeting will be March 6 at 7 p.m. in the high school library.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com

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