The budget review meetings are about to enter the second half. The past two meetings were attended by 6 and 4 residents, respectively. Before the last meeting, I suggested to make the environment more work conducive, like rearrange chairs so we could use tables to rest our papers and make notes easier. Nay.
Due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) introduced in 2010 the state aid for our district was reduced by approximately $1 million. (Information about the GEA can be found in this pdf document). When asked about the board’s efforts to restore the state aid for our district to its full extent, the board admitted it has never sent a request. Dr. Hunderfund added that the superintendents association has been lobbying legislators in that matter.
The review process itself is quite monotone. The speaker calls codes line by line. One meeting dealt with the “instruction-related” and another with the “operations-related” expenses. When asked about the APPR evaluations, Mrs. Ricca confirmed that although teacher evaluations existed before, the APPR costs ($275,000 and $290,000, respectively) are new and are mandated by the state. Mr. Hunderfund entered the discussion also confirming that the expenses exceed by far the amount of money the district received for the Race to The Top program. Our district will be able to absorb the mandates, but will have to forgo programs and employees in order to fit within the 2% tax cap.
When asked if the state aims to consolidate districts and create one state school board, Dr. Hunderfund replied that “…it would be too big. There will be rather several regional, or county boards.” He mentioned that there are 20 or 30 school districts, mainly upstate, that don’t have reserves and won’t be able to accommodate the state mandates in the upcoming year. They’ll be insolvent and will be taken over by the state, like Roosevelt school district, recently. He continued, “This is a ball that will get bigger and bigger. That’s why it’s important to keep district financially sound and maintain reserve funds for the next 10 years.”
At the February 25th meeting, the advantages, costs, and regulations of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program (STEM) was discussed. Each year, top 5 students will be selected to enter this program depending on their achievements and their applications will be submitted to BOCES.
A resident inquired about school bus monitors, as they will be eliminated. The bus drivers will take over the monitors’ responsibilities. The buses will be equipped by cameras.
More iPads will be introduced in the classrooms in the following grade levels: 4, 5, 8, 9. Students in those grades will have access to iPad every day, will use them certain subjects, but the devices will be stored at the school. They won’t be released home with the student. A system will be developed during the process. The board welcomes input the community in this matter.