KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane school board voted this week to move the district to a single bus run system starting with the next school year. The administration recommended the plan, which will save the district about $245,000 a year in fuel costs, bus maintenance and staffing.
“I didn’t hear a lot of concern” from the community, board member Regina Rose said of the single bus run plan at the Tuesday, April 10 meeting. She and her fellow board members attended a public forum last month on the plan to cut the district down from two bus runs to one that transports all students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
“Technically you don’t have to do anything, we can just do it,” Superintendent Michael Vanyo told the board at the meeting. But board President Anthony Welcome said the administration was looking for consensus from the board. If the board rejected the plan Mr. Vanyo said it would affect the proposed 2018-19 school budget.
The board unanimously passed the motion supporting the single bus run. The district plans to start the change in busing for the next school year.
The meeting also included a long discussion of the proposed budget. The administration is proposing a $40 million spending plan with no major cuts. It’s an increase of 2.55% from last year. The proposed tax levy increase for this budget would be 2.59%, which is higher than the current budget’s tax levy increase of 1.47%.
District Business Manager Michael Brennan, who was presenting the board with the district’s anticipated revenues for 2018-19, said that state aid will increase slightly. And the district is saving money from several retirements and the change in busing, so for this proposed budget the district is taking less from its reserves for the operating budget.
Mr. Brennan showed a slide during his presentation to the board that said $588,906 from reserves would go into the 2018-19 budget; in the current year the board allocated $595,943.
There will also be a bus purchase proposal on the May 15 ballot. The district is asking voters if they can purchase four buses as part of the bus replacement plan.
A third proposition asks voters for authorization to create a capital reserve fund of up to $5 million and would be open for 10 years. Mr. Vanyo said that establishing the fund does not mean that $5 million would be deposited in the account immediately. As the fund grows, money from it can only be used for capital improvement projects.
The district needs about $25 million in upgrades and maintenance on buildings, according to a facilities report. “We’re going to need some projects down the road,” Mr. Vanyo told the board. The district is looking at proposing a capital project during the next school year.
The board also talked about the tax levy and the budgeting process, because members have to vote to approve the proposed $40 million budget with the 2.59% tax levy increase at a special meeting next week so that it can appears on the May 15 ballot.
Board member Tammy Crawford said that the district is saving money with the retirements and in transportation, but the tax levy is up from last year.
The property tax cap set by the state, commonly known as the “2% tax cap,” often is not 2% because of the formula used to calculate the limit. The school district tax cap for the 2018-19 school year is actually about 3.3%. And board members discussed what they would add if they had more money in the budget.
If the board decreased the tax levy to 2%, it would mean taking more money from reserves to cover the programs.
Ms. Rose pushed for another kindergarten teacher to keep down class sizes, while other board members talked about adding programs and staff. Board member John Antalek said that for years the board was looking at what they needed cut from the budget and now they needed to start looking at what they can add to make the district more attractive to new home buyers.
Board member Matthew Nelson said they needed to have a list of things that could be added during the budget process. He stressed that the board should “have that list at the ready.”
“It’s going to be one of the highest numbers we’ve had in the last six years,” Mr. Vanyo told the board of the increase. “I’m a little nervous,” he said of presenting the voters with this tax levy increase. But he felt the proposed budget was right for the district and asked administrators at the meeting if there was anything they felt they did not get to add to the proposed budget.
The board will host a special budget meeting on April 17 in the high school library at 7 p.m. to adopt the proposed budget. There will be a budget hearing on May 1 at 7 p.m. and the annual budget vote is on May 15 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Also at the meeting:
• The board approved the tenure of Taylor Dier, Kelly Bins, Laura Franzese, Kristina LaBarge, Emily Marcella, Jennifer Gecewicz, Adam Vooris, Jean Kruger and Meg Duso
• High School Principal Craig Shull said that a mental health clinic for high school and middle school students will open in the next few weeks. He also told the board that the district will set a rain date for the high school graduation to Saturday, June 23 at 10 a.m. He said they would be looking closely at the weather before that date
• State testing is taking place in the primary, elementary and middle schools. Middle School Principal Tim Farley said it looked like fewer students were refusing to take the tests. He said at the meeting that it looked like about 40% of students were opting out. “Things really have started to quiet down,” he told the board. Ichabod Crane has had higher opt out rates in the past.
The next regular board meeting is May 1 at 7 p.m.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email firstname.lastname@example.org