School Budget Updates

Posted by Mrs. Andrea L. Galenski on 5/1/2017

It is with sincere appreciation that you invest a few moments of your time to read this District Newsletter which highlights the proposed 2017-2018 Budget.  I have included pertinent information below so that you are as informed as possible and are best prepared to make your decision on May 16, 2017 when our annual School Budget Vote takes place. 

I would first like to provide you with an update on the progress of our District’s Capital Improvement Project.  With your support back in December 2014, we were able to move forward with a significant Capital Project which has authorized us to advance our schools and guarantee the safest learning environment possible for our students, teachers, staff, and community members. 

In the February 2017 edition of our Newsletter, I provided you with completed capital project work.  Knowing that the Budget Vote is approaching, I wanted to be sure to review this information again so that you are updated and best informed. 

The following work has been completed to date:

  • Auditorium at JFK MS/HS has been completely remodeled with updated seating, flooring, new curtains, painting and improved sound—modern acoustical fabric wall panels will be installed on the walls in the upcoming months to improve the overall sound in the auditorium
  • Telescopic Bleachers have been installed in the JFK HS Gymnasium
  • Roofing and Masonry work has been completed at Theodore Roosevelt—additional masonry work will begin during Spring Recess to renovate the front entrance area at TR
  • Roof work, electrical updates and HVAC Systems will be updated at JFK MS
  • All new concrete has been installed in front of Woodrow Wilson
  • Older bathrooms have been renovated at Woodrow Wilson—new flooring, painting, fixtures, tile work and stalls
  • Pool filtration system has been completed at JFK HS
  • Three wheelchair lifts have been replaced at Woodrow Wilson
  • Locker Room lockers have been replaced at JFK HS

The following work will be completed this Spring/Summer 2017:

  • Closed back bleachers will be installed near the track in the back of JFK MS/HS
  • Science Classrooms/Labs will be renovated to improve the learning spaces at JFK MS/HS---this includes new flooring, painting, casework, new cabinetry and countertops
  • Walls and ceiling will be painted in the JFK HS Gymnasium
  • New projector in the JFK MS/HS Auditorium
  • All corridor lockers will be replaced at JFK MS/HS
  • Track will be resurfaced in the back of JFK MS/HS
  • 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 at Woodrow Wilson
  • Roofing over the cafeteria will be replaced at Woodrow Wilson
  • Art/Music Room at Woodrow Wilson will be renovated
  • Nurse’s Office will be renovated to meet ADA codes and to update space
  • Additional ceiling work will be completed at JFK MS/HS and at TR

It is important for me to once again extend a heartfelt thank you for your support with this capital project.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to do so, I encourage you to please walk around our schools and observe the tremendous amount of work that has taken place.  It has been a profound experience to witness firsthand the extraordinary changes that have already taken place in our learning spaces, and to anticipate the evolution that will occur this summer when so much more work will be accomplished.

Each year in the Budget Newsletter, I furnish you with the exact reductions that have taken place throughout the past three years.  These reductions have enabled us to reduce spending, save money and decrease the burden on our taxpayers.  The information below is a summary of those reductions which are critical to mention as they continue to impact our overall budget:

  • Two years ago, we refinanced two remaining 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 11 years of the bonds.
  • We implemented a print management project in 2014-2015 which has eliminated individual classroom printers in all schools. 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 next school year.
  • The position of high school assistant principal has not been staffed for the past two years and we will be continuing with that decision for the 2017-2018 school year—this is a significant cost savings.
  • School Psychologist—reduced one position in the district three years ago and have not replaced that position.
  • Teaching Assistants—reduced eight positions three years ago at JFK MS and HS
  • Teacher Aides—reduced four positions three years ago
  • Clerical—reduced hours of work to promote consistency, efficiency and a cost savings.
  • Buildings and Grounds—three years ago, the decision was made not to employ a building and grounds superintendent—this decision will continue into the 2017-2018 school year. We also did not replace a position lost to retirement in this department.
  • Retirements—three years ago, we did not replace an elementary teacher, special education teacher, and a reading specialist—as additional retirements take place, we review student enrollment carefully and make thoughtful decisions about hiring
  • 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 three years ago and continues to take place in order to reduce power consumption-this has proven to save us several thousand dollars annually.

These reductions have permitted 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 with no funding to support the increased costs.  The following areas are contributing to a significant increase in spending for the 2017-2018 school year:

  • Transportation—an increase of approximately $261,191
  • Special Education Costs—an increase of approximately $218,000
  • Charter School Tuition—an increase of approximately $225,200
  • English as a new Language (ENL)—an increase of approximately $200,000

We have currently received only $200,000 of additional foundation aid which will barely cover the increased costs in just one of the areas noted above.  We have calculated that since 2007-2008, our District has lost $35,551,155 in foundation aid because it was not provided to us like it should have been.  With projected increased costs of $644,487 for the 2017-18 Budget, we applied the $200,000 of additional aid and are still left with an approximate gap of $443,554.  I have advocated for months on behalf of our District regarding the fact that this is unacceptable and that we rightfully deserve additional foundation aid.  I have specifically noted that given the significant amount that has been withheld since 2007 coupled with the increased costs of new mandates and regulations imposed on us that we should be entitled to further aid. 

With the Governor’s final budget being delayed, we, along with districts across New York State, are left with uncertainty as to whether or not additional aid will be provided.  Recognizing this, we had no other choice but to move forward knowing that our deadline is quickly approaching for budget adoption.  Please know that we have invested incredible time and thought as we prepared the 2017-2018 Budget.  It was a priority for us to keep our taxpayers at the forefront as we made reductions, addressed expenses, ensured that our students and their programming were not in any way jeopardized but rather strengthened in a cost effective manner, and as we planned for future years which is so important to do. 

In order for us to close the gap, continue to make the very best financial decisions, and be devoted 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 .84% increase in school taxes which is below the District’s Tax Cap of 2.24%.

How much will my taxes increase as a result of a .84% increase?

As we have done each 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 $8.09.  Please remember that this is the total increase for the entire year.

I genuinely hope that the information above is beneficial to you and that it provided you with a better understanding of our proposed 2017-2018 Budget.  Within this newsletter, you will also find the specific percentages and costs associated with the proposed Budget. 

I encourage you to attend our Public Hearing on May 9, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. in Theodore Roosevelt Cafetorium.  During the Hearing, a PowerPoint presentation will be delivered which will include information about the proposed 2017-2018 Budget along with an opportunity for you to ask questions.  In addition to the Public Hearing, I encourage you to exercise your right to vote from 12:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at our Budget Vote in the JFK HS Gymnasium.

My aspiration has always been and continues to be one that provides our students with an exceptional quality learning experience that enriches them, supports their growth and development, cultivates productive and compassionate citizens and best prepares them for college, career and beyond.  Thank you for your unending support and collaboration as we move the Cheektowaga-Sloan School District toward greater success each day.  Our students deserve the very best!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Andrea L. Galenski

Superintendent of Schools