G’town school board eyes $14.9M budget

GERMANTOWN—The Board of Education of the Germantown Central School District looks to adopt a finalized budget for 2016-17 at its meeting Wednesday, April 13. The drop-dead date for adopting a school district budget is Friday, April 22. After that the budget will be available to the public at the school and at libraries in the district.

The board may have some work before it. Last year, revenue and expenses were $1.2 million apart at the start of the budget process and this year a similar gap is expected, forcing the board to whittle down expenses to a balanced budget, as required by state law.

At the March 23 meeting, Superintendent Susan Brown presented the proposed spending plan of $14,940,810. This amount is $537,960 higher than this year’s actual budget of $14,402,850. The increase comes despite reductions in several areas:

• The budget for the school library decreased considerably, from a three-year high of $157,300 to a proposed $111,900. This has to do with changing from a full-time librarian to a BOCES “itinerant” librarian, who will serve for the amount of time the district is required to have a librarian, under state Education Department regulations

• Educational television was cut from $10,200 to $4,700

• Instructional technology went down slightly from $158,300 to $156,500

• Guidance was down from $130,900 to $128,600. The guidance budget has decreased steadily from a high of $213,622 in the 2013-14 budget. This has to do, Superintendent Brown wrote in an email Tuesday, with assigning secretarial salaries to another line in the budget.

In contrast, the amount budgeted for health services is up, to $82,650 compared to $70,200 last year, the highest it has been in five years. This is because an aide in the Health Office is going from part time to full time, said Ms. Brown.

Interschool athletics is up to $156,800, the highest it’s been in five years. This reflects the need for additional chaperones during winter sports and an increase in officials’ pay rate.

The amount budgeted for teaching goes from $3,572,620 to $3,646,200. Programs for students with disabilities are budgeted separately, moving from $2,055,400 last year to $2,112,860. This line on the budget has increased steadily over the five years considered.

The increase reflects the district’s transition a co-teaching model, when it serves students, wrote Ms. Brown, and that change restructures the use of teaching assistants. Some TAs who were in the “regular education” budget now work with students with disabilities and come under the special education budget.

Tuesday, May 4 the district votes on the budget and for two school board members. Designating petitions—carried by potential candidates for signatures by district voters—must be returned to the district clerk by Monday, April 18 in order for candidates to appear on the ballot. As of April 5, four people had picked up petitions but only incumbent Ralph DelPozzo, who told The Columbia Paper last month that he would run for another four-year term, had turned in a completed petition.

In the meantime, April 5-7 saw students in third through eighth grades taking the 2016 NYS assessments in English Language Arts. “On Day 1 of the NYS ELA, we had 45.2% of our students refusing to take the test,” Ms. Brown wrote Tuesday. “This is an improvement from the first day of ELA 2015, when we had 60.4% of our students refuse to take the test.

“I believe parents are pleased with the state’s response to their concerns,” Ms. Brown continued. “The state disconnected the tests from teacher and principal evaluations, decreased the number of test questions and reading passages, eliminated the time limit for taking the tests and involved teachers in the evaluation and selection of test items.

“The data generated by the assessments is critical for measuring the success of our work on curriculum alignment and instructional improvement, which is a focus area for the district’s resources,” Ms. Brown pointed out.

A letter sent to all district parents and guardians prior to the test listed the state’s responses to parent and teacher concerns, and the district’s need for assessment data. The state math assessment tests are scheduled for April 13 to 15.

The board of education meets at the school, 123 Main Street.

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