WV school board continues a look at the numbers

Focuses on BOCES, tech and transportation at fourth school budget presentation

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  • Photo illustration Warwick Valley school officials are considering a budget of $89,746,108 for 2017-18. That would represent 1.75 percent increase of $1,543,472 from the current year's budget of $88,202,636.

By Abby Wolf

— Dr. David Leach, superintendent of the Warwick Valley School District, and Tim Holt, assistant superintendent for business, put forward the fourth in a series of presentations about the school budget for the 2017-18 year, focusing on BOCES, technology and transportation at Monday night’s regular board meeting.

Leach and the district propose a budget of $89,746,108 for 2017-18. That would represent 1.75 percent increase of $1,543,472 from the current year’s budget of $88,202,636.

He spoke of a budget process where “our children will see good quality education,” especially at the elementary levels.

RevenueThe district projects an increase of $33,165 in revenue from non-tax sources (from $3,197,102 to $3,230,267); an additional $350,000 in appropriated fund balance/reserves (from $1.4 million to $1.75 million); and a decrease of nearly $85,000 in the library bond tax levy (from $509,245 down to $424,650).

The district is also anticipating a slight increase in state aid: from the current $25,125,763, to $25,234,525. This figure will solidify with the release of the Legislative run, expected by the end of March.

BOCESOrange-Ulster BOCES offers services such as career and technical education in various skilled trades and professions; special education for students on the Autism spectrum and with other learning challenges; technical services and IT support to its member school districts, including planning, maintaining and upgrading technology (such as computer hardware and software, A/V products, whiteboards, and so on); instructional support for teachers, librarians and administrators, etc., as well as Adult Education.

According to the BOCES website:

“BOCES help school districts save money by pooling their resources and sharing costs. BOCES services are created when two or more school districts have similar needs that can be met by sharing staff, office space, equipment and time. Sharing eliminates duplication and allows schools to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively.

“BOCES also expands opportunities for students. Alone, school districts may not be able to afford the educational programs they desire without increasing the tax burden of residents. Together, through BOCES, districts can provide a rich variety of experiences for students of all interests and ability levels. BOCES opens doors to innovative and exciting programs at a price that districts can afford. BOCES also writes, receives and administers grants which help fund programs for students and staff in local school districts.”

“Except for administrative costs that are based on each school district’s enrollment, districts pay only for the specific BOCES services they use. These expenses are incorporated into each district’s annual budget. BOCES State Aid is applied to eligible expenses to help offset the costs. Some BOCES services are directly funded by the state or federal government.”

Local BOCES costsIncluded in the BOCES portion of the proposed budget for the upcoming school year:

$5,100 for cooperative purchasing for Orange-Ulster and Rockland BOCES (an increase of $500 from the current budget);

Public information – which includes communications, grant writing and printing – $281,000 (up $3,000 from the current $278,000);

$225,000 for district copiers, maintenance and supplies (an increase of $15,000).

Also listed is $2,356,491 for instructional services (a $69,294 increase from the current $2,287,19), which includes occupational education, Odyssey of the Mind, Mock Trials, Youth in Government and instructional software, among other services.

Special education comes in at $7,450,124, an increase of $693,989 over the current year’s $6,756,135.

All items for BOCES, including the ones listed above, total $12,955,077 in the proposed budget, an increase of $535,431 over the current $12,419,646.

This adds to the challenge of budgeting for the district generally, in addition to declining enrollment overall, as well as many tuition-paying students, according to Leach.

School board member David Eaton, who attends BOCES meetings on behalf of the district, referred to a “schizophrenic role” when he attends: he hears BOCES board members’ side of the greatest cost drivers in the budget, and sometimes finds it at odds with his experience in the WV district. He wondered if there might be more mandates driving this.

Not necessarily, according to Leach: “One to two students could (potentially) represent hundreds of thousands of dollars (in services), and could walk through your door tomorrow.”

Leach added that there has been a “significant” increase in students with special needs, which is “sad.”

TechnologyHolt said the district’s tech costs are down by nearly $223,000 from the current year, and has budgeted $952,013 for the coming school year.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum James Yap said that the district is keeping up with tech needs for grades K-12, and that there is currently a 1:1 student to equipment ratio: a “great achievement” in three years.

According to Leach, only three years ago, there were not even 10 Chromebooks in the entire district.

Leach said that the district is requesting approval for a Technology Installment Purchase Resolution of $452,273.30 through BOCES over three years to purchase outdoor wireless equipment, interactive whiteboards, and Chromebook Computers. He maintains that this IPA will add no additional expense to the budget because “we have IPA’s that are expiring at the end of the current year.”

He added that this is part of WV schools’ technology replacement process, and that these purchases are aided through BOCES

“The District is requesting approval to utilize BOCES for the purchase of network printers (Installment Purchase Resolution) to replace our network printers throughout the district,” Leach said. “The Xerox machines are at the end of their useful life. The company will purchase the older units from the district. The total cost of these units is $281,424 to be paid over a three-year period. The new contract is less in total than the previous agreement and will have no additional expense on our budget. These purchases are BOCES aidable.”

TransportationWV schools has budgeted $665,684 for district transportation costs, which include:

$221,000 for diesel (a $64,000 decrease from the current year);

$140,000 for vehicle parts; $80,000 for fleet insurance (about $4,000 more than in the current budget).

The district is also budgeting $846,384 for bus garage related costs, which include: $72,000 for maintenance contracts (a $17,000 increase from the current year); as well as costs for natural gas ($10,000), electricity ($15,000), and general supplies ($20,000), among others.

Cost reductions and savingsThe superintendent noted that the district will realize some savings in the budget, largely in the form of staff attrition and early retirements.

Holt said that district found some additional savings in the cost of the teachers’ pension fund and savings in transportation and the Albert Wisner Public Library debt refinancing.

NextApril 3 work session: Budget presentation 5 - community partnership, Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center, 7 p.m.

April 17 regular meeting: Budget presentation 6, Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center, 7 p.m.

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