Wallkill taxpayers responded enthusiastically on election day to the district’s 2019-2020 proposed $76,524,146 budget, approving the plan by a sizable 512 to 171 margin. The spending plan includes a 2.68 percent tax levy increase, a figure which is right at the state tax cap limit. The approved budget total represented a 1.9 percent increase over last year’s plan, and because the budget was within the state-mandated tax cap, qualified district homeowners will receive a rebate check from the state in the coming months.
The district was grateful to the public for its robust support of the proposed budget, which maintained programs and staff. “We’re very appreciative toward our community,” Wallkill Superintendent Kevin Castle said. “They’re very supportive of our programs and I’m happy for our kids. Because our community supported our budget, our students have an opportunity to continue to be part of a school district that clearly values education. So we’re very appreciative of that.”
As part of the approved budget, the district will be able to fully fund its School Resource Officer program that provides officers from local police departments to all five district schools. “The budget passed with 75 percent and we’re very happy that the community believes in us and they trust us,” Board of Education President Joseph LoCicero said. “We are fiscally responsible. We keep the numbers as low as we can to keep things moving in the right direction and to keep the programs open and keep our security forces in place. Our students are what we’re here for. I’m happy with how Mr. Castle and (Assistant Superintendent) Brian Devincenzi were able to put a great budget together, something that was feasible. We were able to put that out to the community, and they responded with positive results.”
Three members of the Board of Education were up for re-election in the May 21 balloting, but the races were all uncontested. As a result, Board of Education President Joseph LoCicero (531 votes) and board members Dustin Palen (558) and Leif Spencer (495) all earned new three-year terms on the board.
LoCicero was elected to his fourth term on the board and said he would like to continue in his role as board president going forward. “I’m very excited to be on the board as always,” he said. “I’m happy to be at the school I graduated from and being involved in the school district. I’m very proud to be here, as I know the other two guys who ran are too. We want to continue doing great things.”
During the board’s May 22 meeting at Plattekill Elementary, the council approved a resolution to replace the Wallkill High School gym bleachers at a maximum cost of $127,067. The funds will be transferred from undesignated monies in the 2018-2019 general fund budget insurance code to an equipment and contractual code.
The need to replace the bleachers did not come up suddenly, as the district had noticed the infrastructure wearing down over time. “It’s been in the works,” Castle said. “We were going back and forth whether to refurbish them. We noticed it during the basketball season. The railings were a little loose and there was a lot of chipping going on. Some of the fans’ clothing was getting caught up on the plastic where it was broken. So we started to work on getting quotes on it. We were initially going to refurbish them, but then believe it or not, it was relatively the same cost to do a total replacement. So we went with that route.”
Castle said that the work would ideally be done in the summer, but should be completed at the latest in time for next fall’s basketball season.