The fate of the proposed $76,524,146 Wallkill Central School District 2019-2020 budget will now be decided by taxpayers on May 21 after the Wallkill Board of Education unanimously approved the spending plan at its meeting at Leptondale Elementary on Wednesday night. The budget’s proposed tax levy increase is right at the state-mandated 2.68 percent cap, and the proposed plan would represent a 1.9 percent increase over last year’s approved budget.
During the April 24 meeting, Wallkill Assistant Superintendent Brian Devincenzi noted that the proposed budget is within the tax cap for the eighth straight year, and as a result of staying within the cap, eligible district homeowners will receive a rebate check. The proposed budget allows the district to maintain low class sizes in grades K-12 while continuing its school resource officer program that stations a police officer in each district school.
The district held the first of three PTO/PTA budget presentations on April 29 at Leptondale, with additional sessions still scheduled to take place on May 6 at Plattekill Elementary School and May 14 at Ostrander Elementary School at 7:00 p.m. each evening. The public budget hearing will be on May 9 at 7:00 p.m. in the High School Library.
While the district received less state aid funding than it originally hoped for, Wallkill Superintendent Kevin Castle explained that one positive to emerge out of the state budget that passed in Albany in March was the establishment of a teachers’ retirement contribution reserve fund for districts statewide. The legislation will allow districts to use a reserve fund to pay for retirement contributions to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). “School districts each year have to pay a percent of total salary to the Teacher Retirement System,” Castle said. “It fluctuates each year. In the past couple of years that percent of contribution has gone down, but I anticipate that in a year or two we’ll see that go back up. So by having a reserve, it allows you to offset those potential increases on the contribution to the Teacher Retirement System. Currently, there’s one for the Employee Retirement System (ERS), so we do have a reserve for that, and that’s for our non-instructional staff. Over the last four or five years, myself and others have been advocating for a TRS reserve as well. It didn’t make sense that there was one for ERS but there wasn’t one for TRS. So by doing so, it’s going to assist us with putting money aside to help with that payment. Hypothetically, if we use $200,000 out of that reserve, that’s $200,000 that won’t be in the tax levy. So it helps to balance the levy.”
Castle reported during the meeting that he had recently received a call from State Senator Jenn Metzger where the official pledged to explore ways to increase state education funding in the future. “The way that the Foundation Aid formula is written currently is broken,” Castle said. “She has recognized that, along with others. That is something that she feels needs to be a focus, so that moving forward there’s more of a predictable funding mechanism.”
The deadline for prospective school board candidates to file petitions to make it onto the May 21 ballot passed on April 22, and the three incumbent candidates will run unopposed for their seats this spring. Board of Education President Joseph LoCicero and board members Leif Spencer and Dustin Palen are all up for new three-year terms that would run from July 2019 to June 2022.
At the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, the Wallkill High School 2018-2019 top 10 all gathered to be honored for their academic achievements, as they each received a certificate from the administration for finishing with one of the 10 highest grade point averages in their senior year.
Valedictorian Amanda Whitehouse, Salutatorian Victoria Soler, Julia Foti, Sophia Soler, Kaitlyn Haywood, Brigid Hickey, Milana Pla, Annika Pelc, Samantha Scannell and Lucie Afko encompass this year’s decorated class, which is comprised of all female students. “I’ve been here 18 years, and I don’t recall this happening before, maybe it has once,” Castle said. “It’s pretty impressive. I’ve very proud of our kids. They have been working hard since probably before kindergarten. Now it’s paid off and they’re going to go on to college or whatever path they choose. They’re going to get a diploma in a couple of months and that’s going to be a ticket to whatever opportunity they may choose moving forward. They’re leaders in our school. They participate in extracurricular activities, so they just don’t read, do math and study, they’re well-rounded.”