School Board gets look at $174 million budget plan

Shenendehowa Central Schools entrance on Route 146 in Clifton Park is pictured.

PHOTOGRAPHER: GAZETTE FILE PHOTOShenendehowa Central Schools entrance on Route 146 in Clifton Park is pictured. PHOTOGRAPHER: GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — The Shenendehowa Central School District Board of Education received a preliminary look at this year’s $173 million budget, which is just over a 2 percent increase from last year’s budget.

At a March 13 meeting, district Superintendent Dr. L. Oliver Robinson outlined the budget for the 2018-2019 school year, which amounts to a total of $173,965,916.

Robinson described the budget as a shifting document that the district usually continues to amend until the last possible moment.

“We want to be able to massage the budget to the best of our ability to the last possible second to get the best deal we can,” he said.

The point in presenting the budget early in the process to the board, he said, is to demonstrate what the district needs to do to create a balanced budget, and to show where cuts might have to be made.

The other option, Robinson said, is to present the board with a budget that has no room for change or input, which is something he doesn’t want to do.

“It’s a different conversation,” he said.

The majority of Shen’s budget goes to instructional salaries, at 34.40 percent, and benefits, which constitutes 26.88 percent.

Kathy Wetmore-Chase, assistant superintendent for finance, noted that the 2018-2019 budget saw a cost reduction in benefits of $1.06 million due to employees switching from more expensive, defunt plans to new plans, including CDPHP.

Robinson outlined several ways that the district plans to redistribute or save money for the upcoming year. Fourteen teachers plan to retire, and the district will retain a total of $540,000.

Shen will also be monitoring elective enrollment at the high school to see whether or not certain classes need to be eliminated, Wetmore-Chase said.

Grade level could influence the decision, she added, noting the difference between a younger student who would have further opportunity to take a certain class and an upperclassman who might not.

Shen will also being paying $42,000 for summer school bus transportation to students who need it.

Right now, Shen is expected to receive just over $47 million in state aid. However, since New York State budget negotiations are still ongoing,  Robinson said that while there could be some extra money coming into school districts, exact amounts are foggy.

“We only know what we know right now,” he said. “The question is, will it come to a place like Shen? Will we see some of the additional dollars?”

With the proposed budget, residents with property valued at $250,000 would see an increase of $70 in their tax bills.

Shen also plans to buy 22 new buses as part of its annual bus replacement effort. The cost will not exceed $2,309,005. The buses will be of varying sizes. All of the used buses will be auctioned off or reassigned.

Specifically, Shen will be purchasing 14 72-passenger buses, five 29-passenger buses, one wheel-chair bus, two seven-passenger buses, and one truck for plowing and salting.

According to the district, a bus fleet lasts for approximately six years. Last year, Shen’s buses traveled an average of 12,456 miles a day.

The district is planning to hold a vote on the budget on May 15. The bus resolution will also be on the ballot, as will three open seats on the board of education.