Budget Committee April 3 Meeting: Enrollment Update; New Program & Staffing Requests

The North Colonie CSD Budget Committee held its fourth meeting April 3 to review the 2023-24 budget proposals. The topics were: enrollment updates and projections, and new program and staffing requests. Presented by Superintendent Kathleen Skeals, the full meeting recorded livestream and presentation are also available, in addition to this summary.

Enrollment Updates and Projections
Superintendent Skeals shared that while new single family residential construction has slowed, the district’s enrollment continues to grow and there is a much greater demand for apartments.

“Most of the apartment projects will not have residents until three years from now, but it is part of our long-range planning,” she said. “The primary factor causing our district’s enrollment increase over the next 10 years is the relatively high number of older residents’ homes that will be turning over to young families.”

The 10-year projection report was prepared by McKibben Demographic Research, LLC in  March 2023 and assumes 110 new single-family housing units constructed per year.

The district’s total enrollment is forecasted to increase by 177 students (2.9%) from 2022-23 through 2027-28. Then by 24 students (0.4%) from 2027-28 through 2032-33. It has increased by 169 students in the last two years alone.

“We are a couple years out from having over 500 kids in every grade in high school and we have not seen that for some time,” Superintendent Skeals said.  “We are looking forward toward a capital project and the need to revisit the high school and bring it up to standard for the number of students it has and how we serve them.”

 New Programs and Staffing Requests
Keeping students safe and addressing the many social and emotional needs and impacts of coming back from the pandemic are a priority, Superintendent Skeals said. The nurses and support staff that were put into place initially through federal funding need to be retained. The $8 million in staffing and salaries will be addressed in the proposed 2023-24 budget.

“These staff are serving our children very well and we still have significant needs,” she said. Citing the 2021 Surgeon General’s Advisory on Protecting Adolescent Mental Health, Superintendent Skeals said the advisory recommendations align with the district’s mission.

We are educators, we are here to help our children grow,” she said. “This needs to be a call to action. We need to wrap our arms around our kids and do all we can. Our kids are not immune to what is happening in the world. We have to recognize the context of the times we are in as we are educating kids and cannot turn a blind eye to it, and where we have to invest.

“The number of kids in need, and our ability to reach them is vital to helping them be healthy and successful,” she added.

Currently, outside organizations and systems to support students’ mental, social, and emotional health are overburdened and unable to meet demand. 

There is only one new program proposal for the 2023-24 school year. The Student Support Center would be a therapeutic and transitional space for students in grades 6-12 where students have access to counseling support, mentoring support, peer support, social and emotional supports, food and clothing supports, family support, job training support, academic support.

“It’s an investment in a whole child approach to education,” Superintendent Skeals said. “Identify student needs, hear their concerns, and plan for their success. We really believe we can create a space that better meets the needs of students.”

Proposed staffing for the support center is: 0.4 administrator; 1.0 psychologist; 1.0 social worker; 2.0 teachers (not new to budget); and 2.0 teacher assistants (not new to budget).

An additional staffing request proposed is an assistant director of human resources.

“North Colonie Central School District is the single biggest employer in the Town of Colonie,” Superintendent Skeals said. “Providing support to the people who serve our students is part of our mission.”

Also proposed is a reorganization of the district’s communications office which is currently provided by a third party, and to create an internal communications team. The internally-staffed team would be a director of Communications and community outreach, communications specialist, and office coordinator. The current K-12 Curriculum and Instruction position “is a giant job for one person, and will be split, creating a director of grades 6-12 curriculum and Instruction.

Initially, 48.8 staffing additions were proposed . Those proposals have been downsized to a total of 20.4 new positions that are either mandated by regulation or most necessary to serve the needs of our students, families, and organization in our current context, Superintendent Skeals said.

The Budget Hearing/Forum & Meet the BOE Candidates is Wednesday, May 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Shaker Middle School Auditorium. The Budget Vote is Tuesday, May 16, 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. in the District Office, 91 Fiddlers Lane, Latham.

For more information please visit our Budget & Taxes web page.