February 4, 2014
Dryden plans 1.9% school levy rise
District faces approximately $1.6 million deficit in $35 million budget proposal
DRYDEN — The school district is proposing a 1.9 percent tax levy increase in next year’s budget, which would bring $318,000 in additional revenue.
If approved by local residents on May 20, the district’s total tax levy would surpass $16.6 million.
The total proposed budget for the 2014-2015 school year remains is about $35 million, which leaves a roughly $1.6 million deficit.
“I could speculate,” said the district’s business manager Emily Shipe of where Dryden could afford to trim some fat. “But it would be my own personal speculation. It really is up to the board to make the decisions about what they want to address.”
Shipe added that when the state legislature releases its budget in March, the district will have a better idea of how much of a deficit it will be facing.
The district can expect about a $500,000 increase in state aid, said Shipe, compared to the over $1 million that was listed in Cuomo’s recently released budget.
“In that budget, the BOCES and transportation amounts are typically overstated,” Shipe said of the governor’s proposal. “When the Legislature’s budget does come in, I don’t foresee us having $1.6 million in state aid, so we’ll probably have some work to do.”
The information was given Monday night at a community-planning forum, at which district administrators offered residents in attendance a break down of some of the challenges the school is facing in the coming school year.
For the 2014-2015 school year, the district expects to spend about $8.9 million on employee benefits, including about $4.5 million on health insurance alone, a 7-percent increase over last year.
“We’re going to be nailed with all these new taxes,” said director of curriculum and instruction Adam Bauchner. “A lot of it is due to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).”
The district currently has about $16.4 million in outstanding debt, accumulated over a decade of capital projects and district improvements. Its expected capital and interest payments for the 2014-2015 school year are about $2.9 million.
“I think were in pretty good shape as far as our debt service,” said Shipe. “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel to when this debt will be paid off.”
Administrators also touched on the district’s co-curricular activities, which encompasses all athletics and student clubs and organizations.
Though the presentation listed a slew of offerings that had either been cut due to lack of interest or budget constraints, members of the Board of Education and residents in attendance extolled the need for extracurriculars and discussed ways to encourage and expedite the process of establishing new organizations and clubs.
High school Principal Brett Fingland offered a ray of light on that front.
“We’re starting to get some grumbling from students wanting to start a newspaper,” said Fingland. “I do foresee us getting a student newspaper in the near future. There are so many other things that make up the school experience.”
Fingland said that names had already been suggested for the newspaper; with Lion’s Tale and Lion’s Roar prominent among them.
The latter portion of the two-hour forum gave administrators the chance to address commonly asked questions from residents, gleaned through answered surveys previously sent home with students.
One question read, “what is the district doing to implement and integrate technology in a way that will give out students the 21st century skills they will need to succeed after graduation?”
Superintendent of Schools Sandy Sherwood made mention of the district’s “tech mentors” program, which identifies a handful of technology-savvy teachers as both leaders in staff development and sites of contact for other teachers with technology questions.
Another questions asked what steps the district is taking to help students struggling with coursework.
School principals responded with an outline of current intervention procedures, including Academic Intervention Services in math and English language arts.
John Birmingham, principal of Dryden Middle School, also mentioned upcoming support services for earth science and global history, and discussed the newly minted help labs program, which take place during lunch. The labs, he said, focus on the 128 students who are failing two or more classes, and focus on math, which, among the 128, is the most commonly failed class.
“The idea is that you conduct a physical, not an autopsy,” said Fingland of the district’s academic intervention services.
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