KINDERHOOK – The Ichabod Crane school board approved a proposed budget of $34.9 million with a 2.9% tax levy increase at the board’s regular meeting April 9. The board also plans to place a bus purchase proposal on the ballot for $376,000 to acquire six school buses.
The annual school district vote will be Tuesday, May 21.
Superintendent George Zini said the district will receive $663,909 more than anticipated in state aid after the state budget was approved late last month. Mr. Zini called the increase “fantastic news for the district.”
He said the administration decided to use the new funds to reduce the tax levy as well as add services. In March Mr. Zini proposed a 3.84% tax levy increase but with the additional state aid district officials were able to reduce the proposed tax increase to 2.9%.
This budget also includes:
•Hiring six teaching assistants for the Primary and Elementary schools
•Hiring three lunch monitors at the Primary School
•Placing $120,000 in a reserve fund to address classroom space that is needed
•Hiring additional IT (information technology) support and part time communication specialist
•Partial funding for a school resource officer.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen next year,” Mr. Zini said, but he was pleased to say that the administration was able to keep money in the district reserve accounts as well as add these services with no cuts. If aid is cut next year, he said, many of these expenses and positions added can be cut back as needed.
The proposed budget also includes funding for the modified sports program in the Middle School and partial funding for the football program, which is currently supported privately by the community. Mr. Zini has a three-year plan to move football from a community-funded basis to a program funded by the school district, starting with an investment of about $8,000 this year.
Board member Regina Rose asked that funding for football, whether supported by the district or the community, be cut from the budget before the board voted on the proposed budget at Tuesday’s meeting.
She and board members Bruce Naramore and Jeffrey Ouellette said they worried the community would vote down the budget with football in it. Mr. Naramore mentioned the 2011 budget that was defeated after football was added. “I’ve heard from nobody who is in support of the football program,” Mr. Naramore said of residents that have talked him about the budget.
Those three board members voted against the budget, though they talked about its many good qualities, as did other board members.
“I’d hate to have that overshadow the budget,” said Board member John Antalek of the football program.
Mr. Antalek is not running for reelection to his seat on the board when his term is up in June. The terms of Ms. Rose and board President Anthony Welcome also expire this June, and they are both running for reelection. Candidate petitions are available at the District Clerk Office in the Middle School. They must be returned by April 22.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board:
•Heard from the Odyssey of the Mind team, which won the state champion and will go on to the world competition in Michigan. The team, which is made up of 1st through 5th graders was asking the board for $2,500 in registration fees but Mr. Antalek asked that the school district pay more of the group’s expenses for the trip. “It’s a onetime cost,” he said. The board decided to fund the team’s room and board, and some transportation costs at a total of $8,230
•Heard Mr. Zini mentioned there will be breathalyzer tests at the High School prom May 10. He said information will go home to students and parents before the prom
•Heard the superintendent discuss students who are “opting out” of the standardized state tests, which he called “a movement” in the state started by parents concerned with the amount of testing.
“There is an option for refusal to take the exams,” he said but stressed “it’s really unclear of what the ramifications would be.” He called the testing in this state and others excessive but said, “For parents, I think you should do what’s best for your child, as a district we encourage you to take the test.”
Some parents are refusing the test because detailed information about their children’s scores are being shared, according to Middle School Principal Tim Farley, with other states. Ms. Rose talked about corporations creating the tests. “Somebody is making a lot of money from these tests,” she said.
The next regular board meeting will be May 7 at 7 p.m. in the Middle School. The annual budget hearing will be Tuesday, May 14 at 7 p.m. and the vote will be held on May 21, with voting from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the High School gym.