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Click on the "Play" button above to watch a replay of the Superintendent's budget proposal presentation (Part I)
 
Click on the "Play" button above to watch a replay of the Superintendent's budget proposal presentation question and answer period (Part II). The budget presentation will also be rebroadcast in its entirety on Channel 16 on Sundays & Wednesdays at 12:00 p.m., Thursdays at 3:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 7:00 p.m.

Superintendent releases 2015-16 budget proposal

March 6, 2015—At a special meeting held last night, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marie Wiles shared a proposed spending plan for the upcoming school year with the Board of Education and community that aims to strike a balance between the district's mission and available resources.

The budget proposal, totaling $93.3 million, represents a 1.28 percent increase in spending and would result in an estimated tax levy and tax rate increase of 2.99 percent for district residents—just under the district’s maximum allowable tax levy limit as calculated under the state’s “tax cap” guidelines.

Estimated state aid, combined with rising costs and a limited ability to raise revenues under the tax levy cap, has created a $130,000 budget gap for the district heading into 2015-16.

"For the first time in recent memory, the governor did not release school aid runs with his executive budget and so districts are drafting their budgets based off of assumptions about school aid," said Wiles. "The budget we are presenting presumes no additional foundation aid as well as the continuation of the Gap Elimination Adjustment at the 2014-15 level."

The district did receive some cost relief in the form of anticipated savings related to required employer contribution rates for the Teachers Retirement System ($1,330,000) and the Employees Retirement System ($167,000).

"Had we not seen a reduction in these rates, the district would be facing a much different budget scenario," said Wiles.

A closer look at the proposed spending plan

While staffing levels will decrease in some areas, included in the proposal is the net addition of 12.65 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, including 1.0 FTE teachers, 4.85 FTE teaching assistants, 1.0 FTE supervisors, and 4.8 FTE support staff spread across all three levels as well as district-wide.

The proposed spending plan maintains existing levels of kindergarten and first grade teaching assistant support as well as existing levels of  high school instructional staffing in nearly all areas. The budget also maintains all current assistant coaching positions, late bus runs, high school advisor stipends, and custodial worker support.

Proposed additions include increased teaching assistant support in first grade at Guilderland, Lynnwood, and Westmere; increased English as a Second Language and special education teaching support; additional bus driver and bus attendant support; and the transition of a teacher on special assignment to an instructional administrator for special education.

For a complete list of proposed changes included in the Superintendent’s budget, as well as the rationale behind each recommendation, please view the links below:

Download the PowerPoint presentation (PDF)

View the budget proposal rationale sheets (PDF)

View the draft budget document (PDF)

View supporting material for the draft budget document (PDF)

 

If Guilderland receives additional state aid beyond what was estimated prior to the board adopting a budget on April 21, potential restorations under consideration include teaching assistant support in the middle school computer lab; replacement of computers in the high school east lab; summer maintenance help; and aid/monitor support at the high school. Potential additions under consideration include additional AIS math support at the middle school; science and technology equipment replacement and repair at the high school; additional health and safety support; increased literacy coaching support at Lynnwood; and additional English as a Second Language positions.

Capital improvement proposition

During the presentation, Dr. Wiles also proposed a separate capital improvement proposition to appear on the ballot later this spring. The proposition addresses needs in the high school auditorium and on the high school football field and track at a cost of $1.16 million. "The items in this proposition are the same items presented to the community for public vote back in November 2013," said Wiles. "While the original  proposition failed by 28 votes, the areas of concern in our auditorium and on our athletic field still exist and will need to be addressed."

The current condition of the auditorium is not suitable as a teaching space, which is its primary intended use. Lighting is poor, often making it difficult for students to see their work. "We have heard from teachers that students have had to use their cell phones for lighting and that is just not acceptable," said Wiles.

In addition, the auditorium seating is original to the space and repair parts are no longer available. The auditorium also does not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for handicapped accessible seating and the theatrical control systems for lighting and sound are sub-standard.

Safety and liability concerns still exist for the wooden light poles and lights on the high school football field and track. While still functional, the stadium lights surrounding the field are a safety concern due to their age and construction. According to district records, the light poles and lights are nearly 30 years old. The poles themselves are 70 to 80 feet tall, wooden and buried ten or more feet into the ground. However, they are not mounted into concrete and have been in direct contact with the soil over the last three decades. This is of concern since the lights mounted to the poles weigh in excess of 3,000 pounds.

"Spaces such as the auditorium and athletic fields contribute to the success and development of the whole child and provide opportunities for quality learning experiences for students," said Wiles. "If approved by voters in May, the work of this proposition could be incorporated into the district's existing construction project schedule during the summer of 2016. Tying the new work into the larger construction project should result in lower bid prices from contractors."

In addition, as part of a capital project, 65 percent of the cost to refurbish the high school auditorium and replace the light poles and lights on the athletic field would be eligible for reimbursement from the state.

Next steps

At this point in time, none of the items identified for possible change as part of the Superintendent’s 2015-16 budget are final. In the days and weeks following the March 5 meeting, members of the Board of Education will analyze and discuss the list of potential changes brought before them and work to adopt a final spending plan. Included in the process is also community feedback, which the Board and district leaders welcome.

Community members are encouraged to learn more about the changes included in the proposal, attend upcoming Board of Education meetings, and submit their feedback and questions by phone, e-mail, via the budget feedback form located on the district website, or during “public comment” sessions at any regularly scheduled meeting of the Board.

The Board of Education is set to adopt a final budget for the upcoming school year on April 21, and the plan will go before district voters for approval on May 19. A newsletter will be mailed home to all district residents in early May containing details of the adopted spending plan.

 

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