Posted by Mrs. Andrea L. Galenski on 4/20/2016
Thank you for taking the time to read this District Newsletter which highlights the proposed 2016-2017 Budget. My goal is to provide you with pertinent information so that you are as knowledgeable as possible and can make an informed decision on May 17, 2016 when our School Budget Vote takes place.
First, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the progress of our District’s Capital Improvement Project. With your support in December 2014, we were able to move forward with a much needed Capital Project in order to invest in our schools and to ensure the safest environment possible for our students, teachers, staff, and community members. Before work can begin, there is much planning that needs to take place and approval from the State Education Department (SED) is required which can take months to receive. Knowing that there is a delay at the State level, we have made it a priority to be involved in numerous meetings with our architects and have remained in constant communication with SED so that our Capital Project was not delayed.
We have already made significant progress and look forward to this summer when more work will be completed. In summary, the following work has already been completed, or will be completed in the upcoming months pending SED approval:
- Roofing and Masonry work has been completed at Theodore Roosevelt
- Pool filtration system has been completed at JFK HS
- Currently, three wheelchair lifts are being replaced at Woodrow Wilson
- Boiler System at Theodore Roosevelt will be replaced (updates to HVAC Systems)
- Updates to the HVAC Systems will be completed at Woodrow Wilson
- Cafeteria and Kitchen equipment will be updated and reconfiguration of kitchen space and serving line will be completed
- Roof work, electrical updates and HVAC Systems will be updated at JFK MS
- Auditorium at JFK MS/HS will be remodeled with updated seating, painting and improved sound
- Gymnasium Bleachers and lockers will be replaced at JFK HS
- Science Rooms/Labs will be renovated to improve the learning spaces at JFK MS/HS
We are extremely excited about this Capital Improvement Project not only because it allows us to maintain our schools and provide safe learning spaces, but it proves that we are committed to improving our schools so that the students in Cheektowaga-Sloan are provided with the highest quality education possible. It is with your support that we were able to embark on such a profound project. Thank you so very much.
Last year, I provided you with the specific reductions that have taken place over the past two years in order to reduce spending, save money and decrease the burden on our taxpayers. I thought it was important to review that information with you again as it continues to impact our overall budget.
- This 2015-2016 school year, we chose not to staff the position of high school assistant principal and will be continuing with that decision for the 2016-2017 school year—this is a significant cost savings.
- Last year, we refinanced two outstanding bonds. The savings from the first was $558,526 and the second was $392,206. This is a total savings of $950,732 which will be realized over the remaining 12 years of the bonds.
- We implemented a print management project which has eliminated individual classroom printers-the first phase was implemented in 2014-15, and the second phase, which included JFK Middle and High School, was implemented last summer. This project provides us an annual savings of approximately $120,000 every year.
- BOCES Partnerships—Shared Business Official and Shared Technology Management Services—these partnerships continue to save the district over $150,000—we will continue to maintain these partnerships.
- School Psychologist—reduced one position in the district two years ago and have not replaced that position.
- Special Education Consultant Teacher—reduced one position which has not been replaced.
- Teaching Assistants—reduced eight positions two years ago at JFK MS and HS-these have not been replaced.
- Teacher Aides—reduced four positions two years ago which have not been replaced
- Clerical—reduced hours of work to promote consistency, efficiency and a cost savings.
- Buildings and Grounds—two years ago, the decision was made not to employ a building and grounds superintendent or assistant superintendent like most districts have—this decision remained in effect for the 2015-2016 school year and will continue into the 2016-2017 school year. We also did not replace a position lost to retirement in this department.
- Retirements—two years ago, we did not replace an elementary teacher at Woodrow Wilson, special education teacher at John F. Kennedy HS and a reading specialist at Theodore Roosevelt.
- BOCES Budget—we have continued to reduce programs and have made additional cuts where appropriate. We continuously review the BOCES programs and services to ensure that we are planning in a thoughtful way.
- Computer Power Down—implemented in all schools two years ago and continues to take place in order to reduce power consumption-this has proven to save us several thousand dollars annually.
As you read through the reductions above, it becomes evident that these changes are significant and that much work has been done to thoughtfully decrease spending while not jeopardizing the educational experience for all students. Our priority every day is to ensure that our students are receiving the highest quality education possible that involves a keen focus on services, programs and experiences for all learners. We believe in educating the Whole Child so that our learners graduate with a solid academic foundation balanced with knowledge and positive experiences in music, art, physical education, foreign language and more.
These reductions have allowed us to keep costs down in areas that we have some control over, but unfortunately, there are some areas where increases are dictated to us. The following areas are contributing to a significant increase in spending for the 2016-2017 school year:
- Transportation—we will have over an $800,000 increase in this area as a result of a new contract for student transportation
- Employee Health Insurance and Special Education—increase of over $300,000
- Charter School Tuition—an increase of almost $50,000
While there was much publicity about increased funding to schools in New York State, our District received a small increase in foundation aid compared to other districts. We received only a 0.719% increase which equates to $125,288. We were most pleased about the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) being restored in our District which was a total of $300,180; however, when looking at the millions of dollars taken by NYS because of Foundation Aid hold-backs coupled with the increases in spending, this additional money did not allow us to close our gap. In order for us to close the gap, continue to make the very best financial decisions, and be committed to planning for the future of our School District, we will need the ongoing support of all of you.
What will be asking for from our taxpayers?
We will be asking for a 1.49% increase in school taxes which is below the District’s Tax Cap of 1.71%.
How much will my taxes increase as a result of a 1.49% increase?
As we did last year, we have taken a sample of homes from within our District to determine the estimated increase in annual taxes on the average home. The average increase for an average home will be approximately $14.77. Please remember that this is the total increase for the entire year.
I sincerely hope that the information above is helpful to you and that it provided you with a better understanding of our proposed 2016-2017 Budget. Within this newsletter, you will also find the specific percentages and costs associated with the proposed Budget. Thank you for taking the time to review this information.
I welcome you to attend our Public Hearing on May 10, 2016 at Theodore Roosevelt. The evening will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Cafetorium. During the Hearing, a PowerPoint presentation will be presented which will include information about the proposed 2016-2017 Budget along with an opportunity for you to ask questions. I look forward to seeing you there. In addition to the Public Hearing, I encourage you to exercise your right to vote on Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at our annual Budget Vote. That will take place from 12:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. at JFK HS.
It is important for me to mention that with your support, we have been able to make some incredible changes to the programs and course offerings for the students in our District. Just to name a few, we now have honors courses to offer our middle and high school students, we have additional coursework, such as meteorology, astronomy, mathematics for the building trades, and philosophy, we unveiled two brand new Academic Learning Centers, which we are so proud of and that have helped so many of our students reach success, be challenged and serve as leaders, and through our Leader in Me and 7 Habits of Mind Programs, we have promoted a positive, accepting and caring community of learners. My goal has always been and continues to be one that aims to give our students an educational experience that challenges them, supports their learning, develops productive and caring citizens and prepares them for college, career and beyond. I want to extend my deepest gratitude for your support in allowing us to meet and exceed this goal.
Mrs. Andrea L. Galenski
Superintendent of Schools