The South Colonie Central School District held its first budget discussion of the season Tuesday, Jan. 13, focusing on transportation, operations and maintenance, as well as the district’s secured youth detention facility.
Every seat was filled at the district office, as Board of Education President Tim Ryan and Superintendent of Schools Jonathan Buhner thanked district residents for coming to the first meeting and emphasized their efforts to craft a cost-conscious budget during difficult economic times.
The meeting began with a presentation by Director of Transportation Peter Tunny, who presented a proposed budget in the transportation department of $4,328,488 a 3.58 percent increase over last year’s.
Tunny said a large portion of the budget comes from unfunded state mandates, one of includes the screening of transportation employees. Another included the transportation of special needs students who live within the district to schools located miles away. According to Tunny, the district is required to cover the transportation of special needs students up to a certain distance.
In the future, Tunny said, the district’s budget will start to see the impact of even more unfunded mandates, including the inclusion of a left stop-arm to all school buses. Tunny said there are approximately 72 buses out on a daily basis in the district.
But in the area of fuel, Tunny said the district was able to budget less money.
We’ve actually begun to see the benefit of the falling gas prices,` Tunny said. `So we’re proposing no change in that.`
Tunny also explained the large amount of money the district saves on a yearly basis by replacing several buses on the district’s fleet before the maintenance costs of the vehicles get unmanageable. The district brings the bus replacements to a vote for taxpayers in the district every October.
One audience member asked Tunny if it would be cost effective to leave the buses at the last school they stop at in the morning until dismissal, as opposed to driving back and forth to the bus garage all day. Tunny said that probably would not work out because, `You want the buses in a secure location.`
Ryan also said that only some of the drivers are full-time employees of the district.
The next budget presentation of the night was for the Operations and Maintenance Department, for which Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Stephen Benedict called for a proposed $6,003,970 budget for 2009-2010, representing a 1.32 percent increase over last year’s $5,925,493 budget.
During Benedict’s presentation, he explained several maintenance projects that the district hopes to achieve with the budget, ranging from minor repairs, like repainting bus lines, to building a handi-capped-accessible bathroom at the district office and placing elevators in district buildings.
Benedict outlined specific building repairs by building, the more costly projects including roof repairs districtwide ($18,000), replacing worn stair treads at the high school ($21,000), upgrading the first floor faculty bathroom at Lisha Kill Elementary School ($18,000) and sanding and refinishing the wrestling gym and Forum stage at Sand Creek Middle School ($14,000).
Benedict also spoke of an ongoing project to replace the window shades in all of the district’s buildings to more energy-efficient shades that keep the heat outside of the classroom in warm-weather temperature and keep the cold air out during cold-weather temperatures.
Benedict asked for a $15,000 increase over last year’s $120,000 communication budget. He said being able to communicate throughout the district is very important to the job functions of the Operations and Maintenance Department, and the costs of doing so have increased over the last few years. This includes mobile and non-mobile telephone costs.
`Most of the peak [hours] are during our school hours,` he said.
The final presentation was delivered by Principal of the Central Avenue Learning Center and Administrator of the Capital District Juvenile Secure Detention Facility Randy Rench, who asked for the biggest percentage increase, calling for $456,567 ` a 9.41 percent increase over last year’s budget of $417,288.
Due to its location, as Rench said, in the South Colonie Central School District, the district is required by educational law to provide an education to the juveniles who stay at the center.
According to Beverly Miller, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, because the secured youth detention center is a county project that happens to lie within the district’s borders, the district gets reimbursed for the amount it budgets. The amount of money the district gets reimbursed comes from the tuition rates the school districts of the juveniles are forced to pay with the juveniles’ attendance at the center.
The next budget discussion meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m. The topics to be discussed are Support Services-Board of Education and central office expenses, BOCES, public information/printing/postage, legal expenses, insurance, debt service, interfund transfers, continuing education and interscholastic athletics.