Colonie High School (Photo by Jim Franco/Spotlight News)
COLONIE — The preliminary budget presented to the South Colonie Board of Education on Tuesday, March 6, would increase spending by $2.7 million, or 2.67 percent, and taxes by 2.8 percent.
The tax levy increase is below the state imposed tax cap, which is, based on the formula as applied to South Colonie, about 3.1 percent.
If everything remains constant, and the voters approve the budget with a 2.8 percent increase, the owner of a home with a market value of $175,000 will have to play $86.63 more a year, or $7.22 a month.
The owner of a $200,000 home will pay an additional $99.02 a year or $8.25 a month, and the owner of a $225,000 home will pay an additional $111.39 a year or $9.28 a month.
There are some variables that could change things around, said Assistant Superintendent Sheri Fisher during a presentation to the board.
For example, state aid is not yet set in stone and the Legislature has historically allocated more money for education than the governor in his Executive Budget. Also, BOCES and private school special education placements are not known and how much BOCES services will cost is not yet known.
The largest projected increase is the cost of employee benefits, which are expected to rise 5.43 percent in 2018-19 to $28 million, $1.4 million more than is being spent this year.
Increases to regular instruction and special education represent more than a $1 million increase from this year. Instruction is slated to increase by $509,353 to $34.3 million while special ed is slated to increase by $589,923 to $12.5 million – a 1.51 and 5 percent jump, respectively.
Of the total cost of instruction, just more than $30 million is for teacher salaries. The district is proposing to add 1.2 to the staff of 162.14 that are teaching in grades K-sixth and an additional 1.6 are proposed for the 159.06 who are teaching in grades seven through 12. The line items for those two categories are expected to increase by $481,000 and $218,000, respectively.
In all, the district wants to hire the equivalent of 7.5 new teachers and staff in 2018-19.
In special ed, the district wants to add 2.70 teachers to the 43.50 who teach grades K-six and hold the number who teach seven through 12 steady at 30. There is also money to hire an additional psychologist.
“As you know we are looking at some restructuring in our pupil services and special education areas and to being that process we will be hiring one additional psychologist next year,” Fisher said.
There is a request for one additional elementary school teacher to reduce class size and one additional math teacher for a new geometry block, Fisher said, and there is a request for the equivalent of 1.2 social studies teachers. There is one high school technology teacher who is retiring but is not slated to get replaced.
“There will be the same number and variety of courses offered this year as last year with a little larger class size,” said Assistant Superintendent Tim Backus in response to a question by the board about the tech teacher.
The cost of summer school will increase by 17.15 percent to $208,955, which includes money for one additional section of summer literacy at each of the five elementary school, Fisher said.
When the finalized budget goes to a referendum on May 15, the district will also ask voters to approve a bus proposition which would bond just over $1 million to purchase 10 new buses: six, 66-passenger buses at $124,000 each, a 24-passenger bus at $128,000, a 36-passenger at $115,000, a 16-passenger at $58,500 and a six-passenger at $27,000.
It is part of an eight-year bus replacement plan and the state would pick up 54.1 percent of the tab. The annual cost to the district after the aid is $123,192, according to Fisher, which represents a tax impact of about 4.5 cents per $1,000 of a home’s fair market value.
The second draft of the budget will be presented to the board on March 20 at the Shaker Road Elementary School cafeteria at 7 p.m.
The board is expected to adopt the budget at its April 10 meeting.
On May 8, there will be a public hearing at Saddlewood Elementary School cafeteria beginning at 7 p.m. and the annual budget vote will take place on May 15 at all five district elementary schools from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.