KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane Board of Education responded promptly last week to an increase in state aid to public schools, approving a $39,189,544 proposed 2017-18 school budget at a special meeting. The budget, with a 1.47% tax levy increase, will go before voters on May 16.
Also at the Wednesday, April 12 meeting the board appointed Linda Collett interim director of special education and 504 compliance officer.
Along with the budget proposal, the board also approved placing a $477,789 bus purchase proposition on the ballot and there will be four board seats up for election as well. Candidates had until Monday, April 17 to submit their petitions in to the district clerk. Susan Ramos (incumbent), Tammy Crawford, Craig Luckfield, Dan Cohn (incumbent), Brendan Caluneo and Francis McKearin will all be on the May ballot.
At the regular meeting April 4, with the state budget and the amount of state aid to school districts still unresolved, the board considered a tighter budget. Less than a week later legislators and the governor finally agreed on a state spending plan, and Ichabod Crane learned that the district will receive about $210,000 more in aid than originally proposed. But ICC administrators had planned for the increase as they waited for the state budget to pass and were able to add items to the district budget because of the additional state aid.
The revised district budget proposal includes a computer teacher for the high school. It also includes a new kindergarten teacher, since enrollment is high for next year’s kindergarten. The board also increased teaching time for a part-time art teacher and increased the salaries for summer maintenance workers.
The revised budget contains non-staffing items, many of them one-time expenses. The district plans to purchase a new snow blower for the Primary School, upgrade the lighting on the sidewalk at the Elementary/Middle School, purchase five cameras for school buses and an undercarriage washing system for the bus fleet. Also included in the new proposal is a new lighting board for the High School Auditorium.
School Superintendent George Zini stressed again at the April 12 meeting that there are no cuts in programming or any of the district’s current services.
Mr. Zini talked about the budget process, which began in December with the administrators. He was concerned that board members had asked for more funds for certain programs in the proposed budget at the meeting the week before.
He said that if people come to a board member to advocate for funding for their program, “You really should say: You should go talk to an administrator or principal.”
“I just wanted to ask, can we find a little bit more money for arts in ed?” board member Regina Rose said in reference to a conversation at the April 4 board meeting. Fellow board member Matthew Nelson, who had previously asked about funding for the Odyssey of the Mind program, said that he too was asking about support for the arts at a time when federally funded enrichment programs might be cut. He and Ms. Rose stressed that no one in the community came forward to ask them to request the funds.
Mr. Zini said that the district does support the arts and has increased that funding but stressed he was talking about the budget process.
Board member Jeffrey Ouellette talked about looking into endowments and bequests that might support programs in the district outside of the school budget.
The board voted unanimously to support the budget, which still must be approved by voters.
Mr. Zini, who is leaving the district in June, said that this is “a budget that represents what we need to spend to educate our students.”
The board will hold a Budget Hearing May 2 at 7 p.m. There will be a Meet the Candidates forum at 6 p.m. at the High School.
The annual election will be held on May 16 in the High School Gymnasium from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale at