The Greater Amsterdam Board of Education on April 21 adopted a $79,310,619 proposed budget for the 2021-22 school year which includes no increase in the district tax levy while maintaining the same level of educational programming.
A public vote on the budget will be held on Tuesday, May 18, noon to 9 p.m. at various polling sites throughout the city. For a list of polling places see the district’s budget newsletter coming in the mail in May or contact the District Clerk at [email protected]
The proposed spending plan totals $79,310,619 and represents an increase of 4.47 percent or $3,391,701 over the current year budget. The budget, however, calls for no tax levy increase in 2021-22.
The district was able to hold the line on the tax levy as a result of a $3.6 million increase in Foundation Aid awarded by the New York State Legislature, and a promise to fully fund Foundation Aid for all school districts within the next three years. The district will receive an overall increase in state aid of over 9 percent next school year.
“Should the state continue to fully fund Foundation Aid moving forward, as promised, that would add much-needed stability for our financial planning going forward,” said Superintendent Richard Ruberti.
Because the 0 percent increase is well below the district’s state tax cap limit of 2.64 percent, the budget will need only a simple majority of votes to pass. GASD homeowners who qualify will also be eligible to earn a Property Tax Relief Credit this year because the budget is below the tax cap limit.
What’s in the 2021-22 district budget
- The proposed budget focuses on student-centered expenses and calls for maintaining all current staffing levels and existing academic programming.
- Full funding all extracurricular activities, student clubs like coding and gaming, athletics and other student programs.
- Increased services to address students’ social-emotional needs and mental health supplemented with increased staffing. This includes more ENL instruction, social work and occupational therapy.
- Reinstating the fifth grade band program at the elementary school level.
- Technology support and equipment for students including the purchase of 1,000 new Chromebooks.
- An $80,000 replacement of a maintenance truck, a $30,000 purchase of a machine to help maintain the district’s new turf football field, and funding to upgrade the district’s filtration systems.
GASD also established an Educational Foundation in 2020 to raise private funds to help supplement educational programs and initiatives for students beyond the budget.
Capital Reserve Fund Proposition
Voters will also be asked on May 18 to consider a proposition establishing a Capital Reserve Fund with the ultimate amount of such fund to be $5 million for future capital project expenditures. This fund would allow the district to set aside money over a time period not to exceed 10 years, much like a savings account, from the district’s current unreserved fund balance (funds remaining at the end of the budget cycles). The district has earmarked some of these funds to improve indoor air quality & ventilation systems in schools, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, filtering systems, amongst a list of other upgrades, improvements & reconstruction work needed. The air quality & ventilation systems as mentioned are necessary to address the many health and safety issues that became apparent in the midst of the ongoing COVID pandemic.
A designated reserve fund is one way New York state allows school districts to set aside money for future projects (new construction, infrastructure repair, etc.) or other allowable purchases. Reserve funds can be fiscally prudent because they can reduce the need for districts to borrow money and incur new debt while still maximizing state aid. Establishing a capital reserve fund using GASD’s fund balance will not increase property taxes because the money already exists and, therefore, does not need to be collected through taxes. It is also a way for the district to maximize state aid while making repairs and other upgrades without the need to borrow and incur new debt.
Budget includes funding for McNulty Academy security updates
Included in the 2021-22 budget proposal, school district residents will be voting to allocate $135,000 in capital improvement funds to make security upgrades to McNulty Academy. The school lobby lacks a secured lockdown area once visitors gain access to the building, raising health and safety concerns. State building aid would cover 97 percent or up to $100,000 of the project cost, with $35,000 being paid with other state aid.
Residents to elect candidates to fill two open seats on Board of Education
Two people have submitted petitions to run for two open seats on the GASD Board of Education. Running unopposed for re-election are incumbents Gavin Murdoch and Curtis Peninger. Each seat carries a new three-year term beginning July 1, 2021.