WVCSD budget talks center around expenses, tax levy cap and BOCES

Warwick. The appropriated fund balance for what is being proposed is less than $200,000 from the current year’s budget.

| 14 Mar 2023 | 12:41

    As the Warwick Valley School District continues to refine its proposed budget for the 2023-24 school year, the superintendent enumerated revenues and the history of the tax cap levy for the past decade.

    Beginning with the budget for the 2013-14 school year, Dr. David Leach said that the tax cap increased by just under 5% that year, but pointed out that – with the exception of 2018-19 (the last big economic crash), when the tax cap increased by about 3% – all other budgets had more modest tax cap increases, ranging from about 2.8% in 2019-20 and 2020-21, to less than 2% on average.

    Budgets in seven out of those 10 years increased below the legally allowable tax cap.

    The current budget actually decreased by 0.37%, Leach said.

    Out of its current budget of $101,729,239, the district receives $4,014,927 in revenue from non-tax sources; $30,904,472 in aid from the state; $426,850 from the library bond levy; $63,907,990 from district taxpayers; and has $2,475,000 in its appropriated fund balance account.

    For the proposed 2023-24 budget of $109,140,179, non-tax sources account for $4,226,275; NY State gives WV $35,8997,941; $430,350 comes from the library bond levy; district taxpayers contribute $66,310,613; appropriated fund balance accounts for $2,275,000 – less than $200,000 from the current year.

    BOCES budget proposal

    Representatives of Orange-Ulster BOCES presented its proposed budget for the coming year.

    OU BOCES offers vocational training in its CTEC program, special education, and other educational programs to students in the Warwick Valley and throughout Orange County.

    According to Deborah McBride Heppes, OU BOCES Chief Operating Officer, the total proposed BOCES budget for 2023-24 would be $15,073,884, with WVCSD’s share as a component district coming to $1,090,456 - the latter of which includes $576,917 in proposed administrative costs and $461,990 for capital improvements.

    Last October, OU BOCES held a special referendum on the proposed $158 million capital project, which was narrowly approved by component district voters; WVCSD’s share would amount to more than $11 million, about $7 million of which, spread out over several years, would come from district taxpayers.

    However, some board members indicated that many district voters may have been unaware of the special vote, and may not have voted to approve it if they were.

    Included enhancements

    Improvements to be made to the more than 650,000 square feet of building space include replacement of original roofs and windows; replacement/upgrade of electrical, heating, and HVAC systems; construction of security vestibules at CTE ad Axelrod Education Centers; replacement of wastewater treatment and well water systems; removal of vacant and administrative space to provide new classrooms; construction of gym at Arden Campus (where there is no gym currently); and energy-efficient upgrades throughout all facilities.

    “The Capital budget looks significantly different than it has in previous years because of this approved project,” a BOCES handout given to board members detailed. “A BOCES is authorized to borrow through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY). The costs of DASNY financing, which include principal, fees and interest, must be allocated to the Capital portion of the BOCES budget. As a result, the Capital portion of this year’s budget reflects the approved capital project. Each district will support this project through their share of this debt service.”

    School board member Bob Howe questioned OU BOCES having both a superintendent and a Chief Operating Officer (COO). “Seems like we’re paying double...[We’re] doubling up to pay for the COO,” he said.

    Heppes explained that previously, there was no superintendent and that some administration members had to pull double duty to cover the position. The COO position was created to cover the gap.

    Howe continued to challenge Heppes on BOCES’ numbers. “We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul to pay for the bond issue – all Orange County districts are scrambling” to pay for it, he said, adding that he was “express[ing his] opinion” and was “not happy” with the BOCES budget.

    “You’ve put all Orange County districts in a precarious position on this issue,” Howe said. “I’m not supporting any board member who voted for this [bond].”

    School board president Keith Parsons agreed, adding that it “may not be the right time” to have both a COO and Superintendent of BOCES.

    Later in the meeting, the school board refused to nominate the three candidates for BOCES Cooperative Board. Speaking for fellow board members, Howe said that the ‘No’ vote on the potential candidates is in the interest of “sending a message that the bond issue has put a big hit on all the school districts, and [the BOCES’] budget doesn’t reflect how that impacts all the districts of Orange County.”

    Coming up:
    March 16 – Budget presentation #6 – Revenue update with expenditures, 7 p.m., Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center
    April 6 – Budget presentation #7 – Revenue update and expenditures
    March 29 and April 12 – WVCSD sends out legal ads
    April 20 – Budget presentation #8 – overview and adoption of budget, property tax report card
    May 4 - Proposed Budget Public Hearing
    May 16 – Budget vote and school board elections