VALATIE–The Ichabod Crane Board of Education reviewed the school’s state aid for the 2019-20 school year at their meeting Tuesday night, with Superintendent Michael Vanyo reporting that the district will receive about $80,000 more in state aid than expected when the district started planning early this year for next year’s budget.
“We are really pleased,” he said of the budget numbers though he did say, “to get $80,000 more is a very thin margin.”
The district is looking at a $41-million budget for the next school year with about $15.7 million of that coming from the state aid. The rest of the funds, about 58% of the total budget, will come mainly from local property taxes.
The board is reviewing the final numbers and will vote on a proposed budget later this month so they can present it to voters for a public hearing May 7. There will be a district-wide vote May 21. The board does plan to remain within the state mandated tax levy cap, which this year is set at 2.7%.
Mr. Vanyo gave the board several options to look at when putting together the final budget but the one he said the administration recommends would replace retiring teachers in the art and music programs but not a retiring French teacher. The district will still offer French in middle school and high school but the advanced French classes in the high school will be part of a distance learning program the school hopes to join.
Mr. Vanyo told the board that the district is “ready to go,” when asked about joining a distance learning consortium that would allow students to take classes through video links to other school districts in the area that are also part of the consortium. The board needs to approve spending the money to join the program and redesign a classroom.
At a budget meeting in January, the administration said the cost to join the distance learning consortium would be $65,000 to set up the technology needed and $75,000 a year in membership. Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow said there is some state aid available to cover a percentage of the teacher’s salary for either teaching the course or monitoring the students taking the course. And according the plan presented, there is aid for setting up the classroom.
At the April 2 meeting, Ms. Guntlow said that there is a French course offered through the program.
There was also some discussion at the January meeting of allowing 7th and 8th graders who are in band and chorus to opt out of general music. Mr. Vanyo said at the April meeting that he would still like to discuss that option with the board and the teachers in the music program but added, “We are not trying to start a war with people” over the issue.
Some residents have voiced concerns over the proposed change in the program, including one student who spoke at the April 2 board meeting against allowing students to opt out of general music.
The budget the administration is suggesting the board approve has a surplus of over $14,000. Mr. Vanyo talked about ways to use that surplus, including: a proposal to have monitors replace teachers in the cafeteria in the primary school and middle school so that students can work with teachers during lunchtime; putting money in a capital reserve fund that can only be used for construction projects; and purchasing ukuleles for the music program.
The board will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, April 16 to adopt the proposed budget that will be placed on the May 21 ballot.
Also at the meeting the board heard from the district’s technology director about upgrading the infrastructure in the schools and the purchase of some technology hardware for students to use with funds from state programs. It’s money that the district has to spend on technology but will be reimbursed by the state.
During that part of the meeting, administrators discussed problems with the statewide testing that took place Tuesday April 2. The district, like several others in the state, dealt with the inability of the state to accept computerized tests sent from the schools. Students in grades 5 through 8 were taking the state assessments and 5th graders were taking the assessments on computers.
Eventually the district was able to submit the tests but the local officials moved the second day of testing from Wednesday to Thursday so that the company running the testing can work out the computer issues. An email went out to parents that said in part, “The state Education Department will use this time to ensure the smooth operation of its system in anticipation of resuming testing on Thursday.”
Also at the meeting:
• Four teachers received tenure from the Board of Education. They were Ashley Mitchell, Lindsay Meyers, Jennifer Warrington and Ashley Knowles
• The board held a public hearing at the beginning of the meeting to discuss transferring $12,500 from the Repair Reserve to a Capital Fund to replace the hot water system in the middle school. There was not comment from the public. The board approved a motion to do the work during the meeting
• There was some discussion about petition for Board of Education candidates. There are three open seats on the board. Petitions must be submitted to the district clerk by 5 p.m. April 22. The board discussed having a candidate forum hosted by one of the high school classes.
The next board meeting will be April 16 at 7 p.m. in the high school library. There will be a budget hearing and a public hearing on the money spend on technology at the May 7 meeting, also at 7 p.m.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email