Community to vote on $28 million school budget proposal May 21

Proposed budget maintains educational opportunities, tax levy increase below ‘cap’

On Tuesday, May 21, Watervliet City School District residents will vote on a proposed $28,187,000 budget for the 2019-20 school year. Voting will take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at two polling locations: Watervliet Elementary School and the Watervliet Elks Lodge.

The proposed budget would increase spending by 2.83 percent, or $776,000 more than the current-year budget and would allow the district to maintain current staffing levels, and all educational programs, services and extracurricular opportunities for students.

The proposal carries a tax levy increase of 2.4 percent, which is slightly below the district’s limit as determined by the state’s tax “cap” formula. School tax rates, which determine the amount of money property owners pay per $1,000 of assessed value, will be set in August when the district receives the final tax assessment roll from the City.

Watervliet will receive a net increase of $946,000, or 4.97 percent, in state aid next year. This includes $589,000 in Foundation Aid. The remaining $357,000 of the increase represents growth in expense-driven aid categories, such as transportation and BOCES aid, that the district receives as reimbursement for expenses incurred the previous year.

The increase in Foundation Aid to Watervliet schools is nearly $440,000 more than first proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his Executive Budget.

“I am thankful that state lawmakers kept their promise to prioritize higher need districts, like ours, and direct more aid our way,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lori Caplan. Still, she said the district remains underfunded by more than $3 million dollars under the state’s Foundation Aid formula.

“It is important to take a balanced approach to budget development,” Dr. Caplan said. “One that considers the financial implications for taxpayers and at the same time, invests in programs and services that address the needs of our growing population of students living in poverty, English language learners, students with disabilities, and student mental health services, as well.”

The district has budgeted for 10 students to attend the Capital Region BOCES Pathways Academy, an alternative education program that offers at-risk students the support they need to graduate on time from high school with essential skills for future careers. The proposed plan would also allow for expanding the number of available spots for students interested in attending BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

An additional 10 students will enroll as ninth-graders in the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program at the Watervliet campus. P-TECH prepares students for careers in STEM-related fields. Students who successfully complete the program earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from an area college at no cost.

“The P-TECH program offers students a pathway to both higher education and employment,” said Dr. Caplan. “It gives our students a head-start on their future with real-world experience and skills, which is priceless, and the opportunity to earn a two-year degree in the field of information technology free of charge.”

To help offset the spending increase in the 2019-20 proposed budget, the district has identified the following costs savings:

  • $35,000 – BOCES Central Data Processing service;
  • $81,000 – teacher salaries due to retirements;
  • $167,000 – Teacher Retirement System (TRS) employer contributions due to the rate decreasing from 10.62% to 8.86%; and,
  • $114,000 – employee benefits due to decreased rates in the district’s Medicare plan and lower than expected increases in the district’s health insurance plan.

Board of Education election

Voters will also elect one school board member to begin a three-year term beginning July 1. Two candidates are running for a seat on the Board of Education: incumbent Sheri Senecal and newcomer Philip E. DiPompei. Read more about the candidates