One year after Valley Central taxpayers rejected the district’s initial proposed budget before approving an amended spending plan the second time around, the district is hoping for a smoother budget process this election season. At the Valley Central Board of Education meeting on March 25, the administration presented a tentative $108,157,000 proposed 2019-2020 budget that stays with the 2.8 percent tax cap.
The proposed plan represents a 3.97 percent increase over last year’s approved $104,023,293 budget. Last May, local voters rejected the district’s original proposed budget of $104,203,711, but approved the second spending plan in June when $180,418 was cut out of the first plan. The district is still waiting on final state aid numbers from Albany once a final state budget deal is cut.
Under the proposed budget, a 2.8 percent cap would result in an annual tax bill increase of $100.45 for homes with an assessed value of $100,000, with a yearly increase of $200.90 for homes with a $200,000 value and a $301.35 raise for residences with an assessed value of $300,000.
A separate proposition on the ballot on May 21 will give voters the chance to decide whether or not to establish a Capital Reserve Fund in the district with a limit of $10 million in funding for capital projects. If approved, voters would then have to approve every proposed expenditure from the fund.
The proposed budget includes a $62,704,217 tax levy with a projected $38,686,143 in state aid. As part of the spending plan, the district would implement a number of program enhancements next year, including an expansion of the district’s one-to-one Chromebook program, new elementary STEAM labs and Makerspaces and additional high school STEAM elective courses. “I think what we wanted to focus on for the budget is what it will do for kids,” Valley Central Superintendent John Xanthis said. “It’s the whole idea of why we’re here. We can give different numbers, but the focus really is the things we’re going to do in the budget for opportunities for kids. So that’s been the discussion. The things that were emphasized in the budget were from the survey we did on Thoughtexchange, so this is what the community asked us to look at. Also, it’s ideas from the three meetings that (Director of Curriculum) Marianne Serratore did with the curriculum meetings with the community. She did one in Maybrook, one in Walden and one in Montgomery. So that’s the information we’re taking. This is what people would like to see and this is what we’re trying to do. It’s all good things for kids.”
The budget would also fund the expansion of alternative learning programs and after school clubs in the district. As part of the plan, the district would also make a $258,000 inter-fund transfer to pay for new lighting and sound systems in the high school auditorium. The project was previously earmarked as part of a proposed referendum that would also include renovation to the High School-Middle School complex parking lot, but the auditorium work has now been separated.
During last Monday’s meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution by a 4-0 vote to designate the district as lead agent on the proposed 17K referendum. CSArch architectural will now begin the state process of preparing a potential public referendum. “This resolution allows the district to take the initial steps to clear SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review Act) for the possible referendum,” the resolution states. “Once SEQR is cleared, the board will make a decision on the budget and scope of this project.”
No price tag was tied to the resolution, as the board will examine potential referendum packages after the spring budget season is completed. “We didn’t put it in the resolution, but I think they said we would look at a referendum up to $25 million, that was the number that was discussed,” Xanthis said. “I think it will all depend on what they determine at the time. I think the discussion six weeks ago was that they would look at something from $7.5 to $25 million, but we want to wait obviously until the budget goes through.”