2018-2019 School Budget Updates

Posted by Mrs. Andrea L. Galenski on 5/9/2018

It is with sincere appreciation that you invest a few moments of your time to read this District Newsletter which highlights the proposed 2018-2019 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 15, 2018 when our annual School Budget Vote takes place. 

I would first like to provide you with another update regarding 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. 

The following work has been completed to date:

  • Auditorium at JFK MS/HS has been completely remodeled with updated seating, flooring, new curtains, new projector for improved presentations, painting and improved sound—modern acoustical fabric wall panels have been installed on the walls which have improved the overall sound in the auditorium
  • Modern and safe Telescopic Bleachers have been installed in the JFK HS Gymnasium
  • Roofing and Masonry work has been completed at Theodore Roosevelt
  • Roof work, electrical updates and HVAC Systems have been updated at JFK MS
  • New concrete has been installed all around 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 bleachers around the track and football field at JFK MS/HS have been completely replaced
  • Science Classrooms/Labs have been renovated to improve the learning spaces at JFK MS/HS---this includes new flooring, painting, casework, cabinetry, counter tops and Promethian boards
  • Walls and ceiling have been painted in the JFK HS Gymnasium
  • All corridor lockers have been replaced at JFK MS/HS
  • The track at JFK MS/HS has been resurfaced
  • Boiler System at Theodore Roosevelt has been completely replaced
  • HVAC Systems at Woodrow Wilson have been updated
  • Cafeteria and Kitchen equipment has been updated and reconfigured at Woodrow Wilson
  • Roofing over the cafeteria has been replaced at Woodrow Wilson
  • The Nurse’s Office at JFK MS/HS has been renovated to meet ADA codes and to update space
  • Additional ceiling work has been completed at JFK MS/HS and at TR
  • Art/Music Room at Woodrow Wilson has been renovated

While this is a long list, there is still more work to be done.  We have diligently tracked and controlled costs so that there are funds remaining in the project.  These remaining funds will be used for some much needed items, such as improving the safety and security at the entrances of JFK HS/MS, improvements to the art and music rooms at JFK, replacing certain failing doors at Woodrow Wilson, and many other improvements.

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 and during the summer of 2019 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 four 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:

  • Three 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 three years and we will be continuing with that decision for the 2018-2019 school year—this is a significant administrative cost savings.
  • School Psychologist—reduced one position in the district four years ago and have not replaced that position.
  • Special Education Teacher—reduced one position for the coming 2018-2019 school year.
  • Teaching Assistants—reduced eight positions four years ago at JFK MS and HS.
  • Teacher Aides—reduced four positions four years ago and an additional position one year ago.
  • Clerical—reduced hours of work to promote consistency, efficiency and a cost savings.
  • Buildings and Grounds—four years ago, the decision was made not to employ a building and grounds superintendent—this decision will continue into the 2018-2019 school year. We also did not replace a position lost to retirement in this department.
  • Retirements—four 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 2018-2019 school year:

  • Special Education Costs—an increase of approximately $500,000 in tuition for special schools
  • English as a new Language (ENL)—an increase of approximately $70,000
  • Employee Health Insurance—an increase of approximately $153,000
  • Debt Service—an increase of approximately $1,070,000 in new debt payments are required for bond payments related to the capital improvements

We received only $120,000 of additional foundation aid in the adopted New York State budget for 2018-2019.  This increase in foundation aid does not nearly cover the increase in costs 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 a total net in increased costs of $1,254,871 for the 2018-19 Budget, we applied the $120,000 of additional aid and additional building aid received as a result of our capital construction.  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. 

Despite New York State withholding aid that the District was promised and the need for us to implement numerous mandates and requirements which serve to increase the cost of education, we have diligently worked to keep the cost to our taxpayers as low as possible while providing our students with the best education that they all deserve..

In the past few years, we have implemented new advanced placement and other challenging courses, we started two new Academic Learning Centers to help struggling students and challenge others, we implemented the 7 Habits/Leader In Me Program to provide students with leadership opportunities, and have made vast improvements in technology.  In just the past year, we implemented the Lucy Calkins Literacy Program which has yielded incredible success in our elementary schools.  Many of these programs are being emulated by other districts.  We will continue to seek ways to improve education for all of our students.

What will be asking for from our taxpayers?

We will be asking for a .98% increase in school taxes which is below the District’s Tax Cap of 2.57%.

How much will my taxes increase as a result of a .98% 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 $9.51.  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 2018-2019 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 8, 2018 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 2018-2019 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 15, 2018 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