Embarking on another budget season, Superintendent D. Joseph Corr likened Monday’s kickoff to another annual event, New Year’s Day. District officials and the Board of Education Budget Committee presented the overview and context for the 2019-20 budget process at their first Budget Committee meeting.
There are six main drivers for the 2019-20 budget. Those are mission-focused budgeting, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), NYS School Funding Transparency, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget proposal, the Property Tax Cap, and increasing enrollment in the North Colonie Central School District.
Superintendent Corr emphasized the district’s mission statement when examining mission-focused budgeting, specifically the phrase that “all students” should succeed. He pointed out that the district takes the “all students” mandate very seriously. Mr. Corr also talked about the three pillars that go into educating the whole student: equity, social-emotional health, and academic excellence.
Equity led into the presentation by Assistant Superintendent for Business Scott Hoot. Equity is a key part of both ESSA and the NYS School Funding Transparency. Both laws require schools to report expenditures and budgets by building, and funding can be withheld for failure to comply with the respective regulations.
Assistant Superintendent Hoot also talked about the governor’s proposed Executive Budget and some of the aid increases for North Colonie in that budget. One major increase in aid was BOCES aid, up over 100% from the previous year. Mr. Hoot said the reason for that is the district has been purchasing more services through BOCES where it makes financial sense to do so. The district receives about 50% of the money it spends through BOCES back in state aid. In total, the district is projected to get about $1.3 million more in state aid through the governor’s proposed Executive Budget. That number could increase or decrease as the budget process moves forward.
Mr. Hoot also laid out the district’s preliminary tax cap for the 2019-20 budget: 3.38%
Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Skeals took over to talk about one of, if not the main cost driver in this year’s budget; increasing enrollment. The 2019-2020 school year is the last year for the district having a K-6, 7-8, 9-12 configuration. With the opening of Shaker Middle School for the 2020-21 school year, the district will reconfigure to K-5 at the elementary schools, 6-8 at the middle school, and 9-12 at the high school. Because this coming year is the last with K-6 at the elementary schools, it is projected to be the tightest year in terms of space in those buildings.
To highlight the district’s rapidly growing enrollment, Ms. Skeals showed that every elementary school has had increased enrollment over the past four years. Next school year, it is projected the district will have over 3,000 elementary students in the district. From the 2014-15 school year to the 2019-20 school year, the district is projected to increase elementary enrollment by 539 children, almost an entire new building’s worth of students. The number of ENL students is also projected to increase 2.5 times what it was in 2014-15, with over 430 in the district by October 2019.
These new students not only need new classroom space, which is being addressed in our ongoing capital project, but also new teachers. The 2019-20 budget calls for the addition of 7.4 new teaching positions. This is just to handle increases in enrollment alone, not to start any new programs. More teaching positions are expected to be needed for the 2020-21 budget as well to fully staff the new Shaker Middle School.
Mr. Corr closed out the meeting by saying that the district would be moving forward in the budget process by allocating resources with an eye toward maintaining an equitable educational experience, recognizing that now more than ever a good education is not a luxury for some, but a necessity for all.
The next Budget Committee meeting will be March 11th at 7:00 p.m. in the Central Office Curriculum and Instruction Workroom.