GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Central School District Board of Education adopted a $109.9 million spending plan for the 2022-23 school year on Tuesday, April 12 — a 2.98 percent increase in the tax levy just within the maximum allowed.
This is the budget that will go before the community on Tuesday, May 17.
The district included inflation as one of “several cost pressures” leading to its proposed increase in spending. in an online statement, the district also shared contracted obligations towards transportation services, the nationwide shortage of available bus drivers, and an influx of new students with disabilities requiring specialized placements as factors.
“As a result, the district must spend more to sustain and maintain programs currently in place to continue to meet the needs of our students,” stated the district. “The 22-23 school year budget makes it possible to lower class sizes in grade eight, expands the Altamont Elementary School library position and overall, aligns with the district’s goals of educating the whole student, to ensure each and every student is ready and empowered to succeed in the future.”
The increased spending pushes the tax levy up by 2.98 percent — below the maximum 3.2 percent allowed before requiring a supermajority of 60 percent of district voters to pass the budget.
One week prior to adopting the 2022-23 school year budget, the Board of Education held a budget workshop meeting on Tuesday, April 5. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the development of the budget for the 2022-23 school year and to continue to refine the spending plan. At this meeting, the discussion focused on two topics, the 2022-23 general operating budget and an update on the district’s use of COVID-related federal funds. These are two separate and distinct aspects of GCSD’s spending.
General operating budget
Neil Sanders, Assistant Superintendent for Business, presented the board with a budget worksheet that outlined details of the 2022-23 general operating budget, such as the budget increase, tax levy and tax levy increase.
Sanders explained that the only change made to the budget proposal since it was presented on March 8, was the adjustment of the allocation for the Altamont Elementary School librarian from 0.6 FTE to 0.8 FTE. The district will offset the cost of increasing the allocation through salary breakage. Salary breakage occurs when a staff member retires or resigns and is replaced by a new staff member at a lower salary rate. Having previously budgeted for a higher salary, the changes in personnel can result in some savings for the district, thereby the addition of 0.2 FTE for the AES librarian is cost neutral and will not have an impact on the general operating budget.
Update on GCSD use of federal funds
Sanders presented an update on the COVID-related federal funds GCSD received, the use of these funds to date, and the funds that remain to be used in the coming years. It is important to note that the federal funds the district has received are finite, meaning GCSD will receive them for a limited time period. Also, the use of these funds is restricted to specific purposes. Because of these parameters, GCSD will not use the COVID-related federal funds for ongoing or long-term costs. Federal funds have no bearing on the general operating budget proposed for the 2022-23 school year.
Coronavirus Response and Relief supplemental appropriations Act
GCSD is allocated $4,995,166 for costs incurred from Mar. 13, 2020-Sept 30, 2023, with the purpose of preventing, preparing for and responding to COVID-19. CRRSA funds are intended to be used to:
• offer the opportunity to make the educational systems better for students, educators, staff, schools and their communities post-pandemic;
• address the impact of lost instructional time due to the pandemic on all students;
• address pre-existing challenges that, if left unaddressed, will impede recovery from the pandemic.
American Rescue Plan
GCSD is allocated $2,807,951 for costs incurred from Mar. 13, 2020-Sept. 30, 2024, with the purpose of safely reopening and sustaining the safe operation of schools and to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students. ARP funds are intended to be used for:
• reopening schools safely and sustaining their safe operation;
• addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs resulting from the pandemic.
The conditions associated with the use of ARP funds are that schools must reserve at least 20% of the funds to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions. ARP funds must also address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups.
Management of federal funds
When allocating the use of federal funds, Mr. Sanders stressed that these funds represent a one-time infusion of cash with the purpose of addressing specific, short-term needs the district has as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If federal funds are not managed carefully, the district could be left in a difficult and precarious financial position when these funds are exhausted. Most importantly, these funds should not be used to offset recurring costs.
How GCSD has used federal funds to date
Dr. Marie Wiles, Superintendent of Schools, presented how GCSD has used federal funds to date. As the school year has unfolded, the district has assessed immediate student needs and leveraged the federal funds to address these needs with additional services. Some examples include academic intervention services, additional counseling support in the elementary school buildings, tutoring, reading interventions, literacy lessons, a floating nurse and teacher aides. By addressing the current needs of students and staff through federal funds, GCSD is able to assist these specific groups in recovery from the pandemic.
How GCSD plans to use federal funds in the future
Presently many GCSD students are participating in New York State assessment tests, which will provide the district with a source of data on how well students are learning. This and other data will be used to inform a plan to best spend federal funds in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years to meet the most pressing needs. To engage students, GCSD will be using a portion of the funds to upgrade materials, equipment and supplies. These purchases may include classroom books, Chromebooks, musical instruments, weight room equipment and calculators for advanced high school math classes.
As ongoing capital improvements are being made, the district will use federal funds to repair and upgrade heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment and systems. In addition, the cost of adding outdoor learning spaces, which were part of the capital improvement project approved by the Guilderland community in October 2021, may be partially covered by federal funds. GCSD has the ability to use federal funds for this type of construction work. After determining students’ needs and accounting for the resources needed to address them, the district could apply the remaining COVID-related federal funds to the cost of constructing outdoor spaces. Doing so will lower the amount that the district will need to borrow.
Federal Funds: Continuing with its pragmatic approach to utilizing federal funds, the district will continue to gather data to accurately assess and identify students’ ongoing needs. This data will be used to develop a plan for the use of federal funds in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.
General Operating Budget: The GCSD Board of Education adopted the proposed 2022-23 general operating budget on April 12. On May 17, the Guilderland Community will vote to approve the 2022-23 general operating budget. To register to vote or to check your voter eligibility, please see the district website.