Shen school board adopts 169.9 million spending plan

The library at Gowana Middle School was packed during the April 11 Board of Education meeting.

KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHERThe library at Gowana Middle School was packed during the April 11 Board of Education meeting. KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — The Shenendehowa Central School District Board of Education adopted a $169.9 million budget plan earlier in the month that includes a boost in state aid compared to past years. The proposal goes before district voters on May 16.

The total budget comes in under the tax cap at $169,957,065, with an estimated tax levy impact of 2.1 percent, which comes to a $47 tax bill increase for a property with an assessed value of $250,000. The budget for the upcoming school year is an increase from last year’s, which was $166.3 million.

For the 2017-2018 school year, the district is projected to receive around $47 million in state aid, which is over $1.1 million more than it received for this school year.

How much state aid the district was going to receive was originally a source of uncertainty, said district Superintendent Oliver Robinson at the Board of Education meeting. Unable to pass a budget by the start of the new fiscal year, the New York state Legislature passed a budget extender to May 31 that avoided a government shut-down, but also had the potential to force school districts to plan their budgets on unsteady ground.

Shen’s budgeting process, said Robinson, is more nuanced than simply calculating how much the district can ask residents to pay.

“We don’t build a budget by saying, ‘Let’s go to the max.’ We build a budget saying, ‘What’s reasonable?’ ” Robinson said. “It’s not about dollars and cents. It’s about providing quality services to our students.”

The 2017-2018 budget also provides funding for a new special education offering for students who lack independent mobility, called The Mobility Opportunities Via Education (MOVE) program. The budget will also allow the district to hire more faculty, including elementary school teachers at buildings that have higher enrollment numbers and a high school math teacher. In the district’s proposed budget, teacher salaries constitute approximately 34 percent of the total budget, or $58.3 million.

Also on the May 16 ballot will be a bus replacement proposition. The district, which has 206 buses that provide transportation to 13,000 students per year, will seek the approval to replace 22 buses next year at a cost not to exceed $2.25 million. Robinson said that the district’s buses travel at least 2 million miles every year, among all the schools in the Shen district and to other private and parochial schools that students who live in the district attend.

The vote will be held in the gymnasium at Gowana Middle School, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Qualified voters must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of the Shenendehowa district for at least 30 days prior to the vote. Shen has estimated that there are around 50,000 to 55,000 qualified voters in the district.