On May 15, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District residents will go to the polls to vote on a proposed $68 million budget for the 2018-19 school year. The plan preserves all existing programs and small class sizes in grades K-8.
It also improves academic opportunities (see pg. 2) for students while remaining below the district’s tax levy cap. The proposal carries a 2.90 percent tax levy increase and an estimated 1.98 percent tax rate increase.
Voters will also elect candidates to fill two seats on the Board of Education.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15, in the gym at BH-BL High School, 88 Lakehill Road.
If approved, overall spending in the proposed budget will increase by $2.6 million, or 3.96 percent. Within that figure, 2.32 percent is dedicated to general operating costs and 1.64 percent is for debt service payments related to the voter-approved 2013 referendum. The debt service increase is almost entirely offset by state building aid and the district’s Debt Service Fund. The increase also adheres to the district’s long-range financial plan that was supported when voters approved the referendum in 2013.
“We were faced with several challenges and hurdles when planning the 2018-19 budget,” explains Superintendent Patrick McGrath. “Through the cooperation and innovation of our faculty, staff, and administration we have worked through these difficulties. We feel confident that we have developed a budget plan that reflects our commitment to high- quality academic programming and individualized student support in a fiscally responsible manner.”
The proposed budget includes an increase in PACE teaching
hours to support the expansion of the enrichment curriculum at
the elementary level. PACE lessons compliment the district’s
academic program by enriching students’
experiences at an early age while also reinforcing such 21st-century skills
as critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, and collaborating with peers. These are skills students
will need to be successful later in their educational careers and in the
Next year’s budget would also broaden the district’s distance
learning opportunities by continuing to participate in the BOCES
Distance Learning Network. Through the network, BH-BL will be
able to broadcast nearly a dozen electives, including college
algebra, computer science, business law, world language, and
family & consumer science
courses to other school districts. Assistant Superintendent Maryellen Symer explains these new opportunities are possible because of the new rooms in the renovated high school library and a classroom in the new STEAM addition
that are equipped with distance learning technology.
“The voter-approved referendum helped us bring our facilities and technology into the 21st-century,” Symer says. “In doing this, we’ve been able to continue to offer students a strong academic program with a wide variety of electives so they can explore their interests and broaden their experiences in preparation for life after high school.”
The Distance Learning Network is a shared service through BOCES. Therefore, the district receives reimbursement for teachers’ salaries and benefits when they are teaching on the network.
The proposed spending plan supports the district’s long-term technology initiative by continuing to provide students in grades 3-12 with these devices to collaborate on class work, share homework and projects with teachers, work on group projects with peers from any location, and connect to classroom technology for a richer academic experience.
Within the past several years, there have been many changes to the schools’ physical safety and security measures, such as secure vestibules, entryway cameras, swipe card entry systems, door alarms, and exterior doors locked throughout the school days. Next year’s budget proposal includes enhancements to these measures, including additional digital surveillance cameras throughout the district and extending single-point of entry procedures at the elementary schools to include after-school and early evening hours.
The proposed budget also includes additional on-site counseling services for students through a no-cost partnership with Parsons Child & Family Services. “Having an on-site counselors will help us better serve students and their families who are in need and would benefit from assistance,” says Symer.
Nearly all of these budget preservations, additions, and improvements can be made possible through savings realized by retirements and reallocation of staff due to enrollment changes. There is also a complete reorganization of central administration offices and the restructure of staff assignments included in the proposal. Thesechanges resulted in a total savings of $825,000.
The district was able to save $436,000 in health insurance increases by negotiating greater employee contributions to one of the district’s plan options and by making changes to the way co-pays are reimbursed. These changes were done without compromising the quality of service offered to staff.
Another area of savings, or
anticipated revenue, factored into the budget proposal is from
the planned sale of district-owned land. A 29-acre plot on
Jenkins Road was purchased by the district in the early 1970s
when enrollment was on a steady incline (from 1950 to 1970) and
the need for another elementary school was imminent. After
then leveled in the early 1970s, it began to decline in the 1980s before leveling off at approximately 3,200. As such, the need for a new elementary school became unnecessary and the land has remained undeveloped for more than 40 years.
“When we take into consideration our enrollment has remained steady for more than 30 years and current enrollment projections show growth that can be absorbed within the district’s current footprint, it’s actually more fiscally prudent for the board to sell the land the district doesn’t need, isn’t expect to use in the future, and which could be used for single-family residential development,” says Board President Jennifer Longtin.
The sale of the land would also help increase the district’s tax base, meaning the tax levy (the total amount of taxes the district collects) would be spread over a larger number of residents. At the time the newsletter went to print, plans were in place to public list the land.