April 26, 2018
Greater Amsterdam School District residents will go to the polls from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15 to vote on a proposed $72.91 million budget for the 2018-19 school year. The board of education adopted the proposed plan at its April 18 meeting.
The proposed budget increases spending by 4.9 percent, or $3,407,261 over the current year’s budget.
If approved by voters, the tax levy will not change, staying at $20,875,122. This will be the third year the district is keeping the levy flat. Because the district wanted to minimize the impact on taxpayers, the spending plan is under the tax cap.
“Our goal in creating this budget was to support the educational progress being made in our schools and to be fiscally responsible to taxpayers,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Vicky Ramos said. “The budget is aligned to the strategic plan, our Theory of Action and our district goals.”
The proposed spending plan is driven by the Greater Amsterdam School District’s Theory of Action with a primary focus of the 2018-19 school year to ensure an academic environment that is inclusive to students of all abilities.
Local property taxes would fund about 28.8 percent of the proposed school budget.
State aid would fund 66 percent of GASD’s proposed budget. The district will receive a 5.4 percent increase in state aid in 2018-19, or $2,457,626 more than the current school year.
“This additional funding has allowed us to balance our budget without reductions to our educational program, services and supporting initiatives,” Ramos said. “The district is in a responsible place financially, which is great for our community.”
Also on the ballot, there is a proposition to purchase two buses in the 2018-19 school year, which would not exceed $195,424. State aid would fund 90 percent of the purchase, though it requires a 60 percent voter approval rate because it exceeds the district’s debt limit.
Small city school districts like Amsterdam have a different rule for calculating the district’s debt limit compared to central schools. For a small city school, the debt limit is 5 percent of the average five-year total the district can collect from taxpayers. A central school’s limit is 10 percent of the current full value. Ninety-five percent of Amsterdam’s debt could be excluded from the debt limit if all schools followed the rules that apply to central school districts.
“If we had the same rules as central schools, our debt limit would be $106,994,106 compared to our current limit of $51,161,141,” Business Manager Kim Brumley said. “The district is allowed to exceed the debt limit to purchases the buses, but it has to get approval from at least 60 percent of voters.”
New this year, the district has added innovative pathways to graduation for students entering ninth grade. The program, College & Career Pathways, is a P-TECH model for Amsterdam High School that connects students to graduation through project-based learning. Students take the lead role in their learning, taking college-level, credit-bearing courses from their first year. Students can choose between courses focusing on cybersecurity, early childhood development and fine arts.
The budget will continue to fund community school aid and will increase funding for the district’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program for 3-year-olds.
Voters will also elect two candidates to the Board of Education. Terms are for three years and elected members will serve from 2018-2021.
Community members are invited to learn more about the proposed spending plan at the district’s public budget hearing at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 1 in the high school media center. An informational brochure will be mailed to all households in early May.