The North Collins School Board began the arduous task of crafting a budget for next year at its Jan. 22 meeting and learned that it will need to make up a $500,000 deficit. While the number is large, it is much smaller than the $1.2 million shortfall it faced last year.
Superintendent Benjamin Halsey presented a preliminary scenario based on this year’s budget and programs being carried over and adding in contractual increases. The other figure he presented revolved around the “two percent” property tax cap and the formula used to determine the figure. If the full cap amount would add $300,000 reflecting a 6.2 percent increase in the total tax levy.
The board quickly distanced itself from any support for raising the levy by that amount, and expressed hope that the levy could be kept as is or even decreased if possible through the use of reserve funds.
While state aid is pegged to increase $187,000 next year, Halsey cautioned that the preliminary figure is almost always inflated. He told the board to expect between $125,000 and $150,000 in actual increased dollars. At the high end, the aid would bring the projected deficit down to a much more manageable $350,000.
Halsey expects to present the board with a full budget presentation at its next meeting. For the interim, Board Member David Gier urged his fellow members to keep an open mind on program offerings. Reflecting on some of the courses lost over the past two budgets, Gier said “I think we can add programs using reserves and keep the tax rate down.” Adding that he believes there are courses that could better prepare students for life he said that with the reserves in place, additional programming could be funded for at least the next several years. “We could be a district in the area that thinks differently,” Gier concluded.
Nicole Neal, who coordinates the district’s special education programs, presented a report on her department which showed that currently 103 students are classified as needing some type of additional service. Of those 30 attend special programs outside of the district. She has been working towards establishing a special Kindergarten class for next year that would allow students to stay in-district and utilize the regular Kindergarten programs where appropriate. Neal’s proposal is based on the effectiveness of early intervention and the possibility that in-house programming could lower district expenses.
Reporting at the high school level, the process is focusing on bringing greater independence for older students.
In a related matter, Neal and Elementary School Principal John Cataldo presented a report on the Academic Intervention Service the district provides to assist struggling students. Cataldo reflected on an often frustrating experience over the years and offered up the latest plan to address the situation. After researching programs at other schools, Cataldo has devised a program that will examine instructional options rather than focus on an individual child. He noted that the district has very little or no control over a child’s out of school environment but can control how it instructs them in class. Cataldo said the new system will identify problem areas of individual or groups of children by evaluating tests they are already taking. Alternative instruction may than be used to bring the children up to their expected level. Cataldo added that the approach has additional benefits as it is tied directly to the latest APPR and Core Curriculum requirements.
Jr.-Sr. High School Principal Annie Metcalf reported the school in the middle of Regent and mid-term examination week with the highest number of mid-term exams ever being given. She also noted the 1,000 point mark attained by Senior Jared Keppel over his high school career on Jan. 17.
A stop in play during the game saw Keppel receive a ball marking the event, presented to him by alumnus Chris Heinold, the only other North Collins cager to attain the mark.
It was also reported that all students now have access to e-mail accounts through the district’s system. Metcalf said the addresses allow all students to apply to college, since many prefer to use electronic application procedures. She also said it will increase communication between students and faculty.
Cheerleaders will host a “chili cookoff” on January 29th. A $5 entry fee will be assessed to competitors while a $2 “tasting fee” will help raise funds for the group.
In other business the board:
• Approved Holly E. Coomer and Ryan P. Work as substitute teachers, and Michael P. Genco as a substitute bus driver.
• Approved the agreement with the Village of North Collins for salting of district parking lots and approaches for the season.
• Accepted the resignation of Janae Frascella as Girls Modified Softball Coach and approved the appointment of John Tobia as unpaid assistant for the Boys Modified Basketball program.