COLONIE — The South Colonie Central School District Board of Education has approved a 2016-17 operational school budget. District residents are invited to attend an informational meeting about the budget on Tuesday, May 3, at Saddlewood Elementary School, ahead of the vote, which will take place on Tuesday, May 17.
After years of agitating for the reinstatement of Gap Elimination Adjustment funding withheld by New York for the past seven years to cover the state’s budgetary shortfalls, state legislators have fully restored funds and South Colonie has recovered approximately $1.5 million for the coming year. According to district officials, the restored funding will allow the district to maintain academic programming and pay for “targeted academic intervention services” for all students.
The budget contains a 1.17 percent tax levy increase to district homeowners, which is below the New York state tax levy limitation and will enable district residents to receive a state tax rebate. The spending increase over last year’s budget is 2.49 percent, slightly less than $2.5 million. Budget line additions over the 2015-16 fiscal budget include: one new elementary teacher to reduce classroom size; two new special education teachers and one special ed assistant; a new STEM instructor, a new science teacher and two new academic intervention instructors; a new social worker; technology upgrades; a new middle school scoreboard; and a middle/high school athletics trainer. The district also plans to replace a maintenance truck; replace or maintain aging infrastructure; lease five new school busses; replace a fuel pump; and implement GPS systems for transportation operations.
What will the 2016-17 proposed budget cost property owners?
• Home valued at $225,000 ………………. $4.04 more per month
• Home valued at $200,000 ………………. $3.59 more per month
• Home valued at $175,000 ………………. $3.14 more per month
Overall tax base growth within district boundaries may further reduce
the cost per month for homeowners. It is also important to note that the 2016-17 budget also includes a new veterans’ tax exemption which allows for a limited reduction of the assessed value of a veteran’s home. More information about this veterans’ tax exemption, approved by the Board of Education in March, can be found on the South Colonie School District’s website.
Academically, South Colonie is ranked 12th out of 84 Capital Region school districts. The District ranked in the top 15 percent in Upstate New York for administrative efficiency. According to district officials, South Colonie ranked 64th out of 84 Capital Region school districts (in the lower third) in actual cost per student. South Colonie’s graduation rate regularly reaches or exceeds 90 percent. The district broke ground last summer on the Colonie 2020 Capital Improvement Project to modernize facilities for art, music, and technology at Colonie Central High School and add district-wide WiFi. The project will also bring new libraries to Roessleville and Forest Park elementary schools.
The public hearing on the budget will take place on Tuesday, May 3, at 7 p.m. in the school cafetorium at Saddlewood Elementary. The regular Board of Education meeting will immediately follow. Residents with questions can contact the district office at 869-3576.
On Tuesday, May 17, North Colonie Central School District residents will vote on a proposed $105.3 million budget for the 2016-17 school year. The proposed budget, which preserves all current programming, increases spending by 2.6 percent over the current year’s budget and carries a proposed tax levy increase of 2.41 percent. Since the levy increase is within the district’s tax levy limit, the budget require a simple majority to pass. With a growth in taxable value in the Town of Colonie, the district estimates that tax rates will increase by 0.6 percent, one of the lowest percentages in years.
According to district officials, forecasted growth in enrollment guided many of the decisions made during the formulation of the adopted budget. The district expects to see almost a thousand new students over the next ten years due to the addition of approximately 800 housing units by the year 2020. To prepare for the influx of new students, the 2016-17 budget includes additional staffing—specifically, special education and English as a new language (ENL) instructors—and $3 million to improve school buildings.
The addition of one part-time and six full-time special education positions brings the district in alignment with state education department guidelines and will result in smaller class sizes, enabling students to receive more direct attention. Two new ENL instructors will make it possible to provide ENL assistance in the general classroom.
At the beginning of the school year, district administrators took technology requests from educators, explaining why the technology is needed and how it will be implemented. After careful review, $465,000 of instructional technology was incorporated into the proposed budget, including Chromebooks, iPads and laptops for the students. (In addition, under the SMART schools bond act, North Colonie has a $1.8 million allocation of funds that is not part of its regular district budget, giving the district a means to upgrade and enhance its instructional technology infrastructure in the future—this year, the district plans to use $900,000 of the allocated funds to purchase additional technology outside of the proposed 2016-17 budget.) Teachers are expected work closely with instructional technology resource specialists to implement the technology into their instructional practices “in a thoughtful, meaningful way.”
“This infusion of instructional technology, combined with the professional support from our instructional technology resource teachers, will allow us to create engaging instructional experiences in which students can collaborate, create, and stretch the boundaries of their learning beyond the school walls,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Kathleen Skeals.
“The 2016-17 budget represents our school community’s commitment to high educational quality and strong fiscal prudence,” said Superintendent Joseph Corr. “Sustainability is a constant theme that runs through our educational program and our fiscal management. We have achieved this sustainability in both areas.”
The 2016-2017 budget anticipates no use of the district’s fund balance.
There will be a public hearing on the proposed budget on May 4 at 7 p.m., in the Curriculum and Instructional Training Room in the district’s administration building at 91 Fiddlers Lane in Latham.