WARWICK. Warwick Valley School officials offer final look at proposed 2019-20 budget before the vote on May 21.

The Warwick Valley School District gave residents one last look at the proposed $95 million budget for the 2019-2020 school year at its regular monthly meeting on Monday night.

Voters will be asked to approve a budget of $95,089,284, as well as the purchase of six new school buses, plus the election of three board members.

The budget reflects a spending increase of 2.45 percent, and a tax levy increase of 2.69 percent – just below the allowable tax cap of 2.85 percent.

Polling districtsThose who are registered may cast their votes from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Tuesday, May 21, at the three following polling locations:

• District 1, at the Pine Island Firehouse;

• District 2, at the Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center; and

• District 3, at Kings Elementary School..

School board candidatesEilleen Gagliano, Denise Ginley and Keith Parsons – all incumbents – are the candidates running for three open seats on the school board for a three-year term.

BusesThe new buses will include:

• Three 65-passenger propane powered buses;

• One 21-passenger bus with wheelchair lift;

• One 29-passenger bus; and

• One 65-passenger trip bus with AC and athletic equipment/musical instruments storage.

The buses – replacing those that have between 130,000 – 140,000 miles on them – will be purchased using a combination of the district’s reserve and New York State transportation aid at a cost of $608,000, at no additional tax levy increase, according to WV Schools Superintendent Dr. David Leach.

Reducing costs, being ‘mindful’ of taxpayersThe school district will realize savings by:

• Not replacing two of eight teachers that have retired;

• Reducing the cost of the Teachers’ Retirement System, from 10.63 percent to 9.5 percent;

• Bringing 20 CTEC students back in-house from BOCES; and

• Reducing the cost of BOCES contract transportation.

Total savings from the aforementioned adjustments will total $1,448,593, per Leach.

Regarding those CTEC students, Leach said: “You’re talking $11,000 - $12,000 per kid: (that’s) real money.”

He added that a legal change in the Teachers’ Retirement System permits a reserve, allows for fluctuations in the stock market, and will help the district keep expenses stabilized.

Public commentDistrict resident and former teacher Joan Rapp-Dunn expressed her concern that sports gets more money in the budget than arts and other non-athletic extra-curricular activities: “I’m all about the arts,” because of her background as an art teacher.

She questioned what expenses are covered in various activities, such as “Lego teams, the newspaper,” and other groups.

Rapp-Dunn also said she wished that “athletic and non-athletic (activities) were (considered) equal … Why no ‘Student-Artist of the Month,’ (like ‘Student-Athlete of the Month’)?”

Although board members and the administration are not required to respond during the public comment period, Leach said, “I don’t view it as athlete versus (non-athletic) student co-curriculars.”

“I know this board has been committed to co-curriculars,” he added.

And he said co-curriculars have gone up about 74 percent since he became superintendent.

Leach said that he agreed with Rapp-Dunn’s position that non-athletic students “know there’s a place for them.”

Clubs and enrichmentWV schools offer a range of extra-curricular activities – many at no cost to the district, Leach said.

Some of the offerings at the high school include: Chess; debate; Jazz Ensemble; physics; sports medicine; and writer’s workshop.

The middle school offers several enrichment options, too, including Change Makers; Nintendo Labo; Harry Potter, among others.

Middle School Principal Giorgianna Diopoulos said that, as part of “Dumbledore’s Army,” 7th and 8th graders act as “prefects of houses,” do “lessons” for fifth and sixth graders, make “magic wands” and “potions.”

She said that it “brings kids of all backgrounds together with a common interest.”

New courses and programs

The school district has added new programs and courses over the past five years, from Kindergarten through high school, including:

• Green architecture;

• Engineering is elementary;

• Financial literacy;

• Robotics;

• AP physics;

• AP art;

• Advanced veterinary science; and

• Stage craft/project design.

Other business• The school board gave the nod to a Memorandum of Agreement between the district and the Warwick Valley Teachers Association. Contracts with administrative staff and CSEA are still open and in negotiations.

• The BOE also cleared members of the high school Leadership Academy for a trip to Secret Service Headquarters in Brooklyn on May 29.

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