Marlboro Superintendent Michael Brooks has promised there will be no increase in the 2021-22 school budget – holding the line at this year’s $58,363,438 budget.
“I think it’s important for us to show our public that we can control our costs and this is also a strategy to reduce the amount of fund balance that we need to appropriate on an annual basis,” he said. “I am absolutely confident that this is something that we can deliver.”
Brooks said they are carefully reviewing all existing expenses and departments, pointing out that salaries and benefits are the main driving factors in the budget.
Brooks said the district is also looking at their transportation contract with Quality Bus, which is currently up for renewal for the 2021-22 school year. He noted that New York State is scheduled to adopt the state budget by April 1 and Marlboro is closely following what their final state aid package will be for next year. The district is still awaiting costs from BOCES on their Special and Regular Education programs and what the totals are for in and out of district students.
Brooks said Gov. Cuomo has requested $15 billion in aid from the federal government, “to fill a significant budget gap that exists in New York State and if the state gets that $15 billion, there will be a meaningful change in our aid package.” He said the Governor has proposed $16,025,927 in state aid to Marlborough for next year, which is a decrease of $141,604 from this year.
Brooks highlighted some recent school actions: approval for the return of basketball and cheer-leading; winter track that took place and consideration to revive other extracurricular activities and clubs while meeting state Covid 19 protocols and the current 50 person limit. He said it may take a few weeks for the clubs to return as an active part of the student community.
Previously, the board had asked to review the teacher sub rates. Currently a substitute work day is 7 hours and a certified teacher substitute is paid $100/day and non-certified teacher substitute is paid $80/day. The board has been discussing a $15/hr rate that would push the day rates higher. Brooks indicted there will be additional discussions on the rates.
Brooks said at their upcoming March 11 meeting the board will discuss some additional items under consideration for 2021-22: replacing 25% of the district’s Chrome books for approximately $170,000, pointing out that buying them through this year’s budget would ensure that they are ready for the start of school this fall. He said making this a line item in the 2021-22 budget would allow for the next 25% of Chrome books to be purchased in February of 2022, “so that we’re always buying in the winter for the following fall because of the lead time needed to buy the Chrome books.”
The district will also be looking to establish a rotational replacement program for their Smart Boards. He said significant funding for this will come from the Smart Schools Bond Act but the district’s share may be about $320,000 for this initiative.
“Quite honestly, it does depend on where we end up with fund balance and with our aid package,” he said.
Brooks said upgrades and repairs will be needed for the Planetarium but the cost has not yet been determined.
“It is a wonderful facility that is used extensively in our Astronomy program, by our 1st through 5th graders, boys and girls scouts and by our adult education program,” he said. “Everything has some age to it, so there is a need for hardware and software upgrades.” A firm from Philadelphia will soon identify what is needed and will provide the board with several options, “to keep that facility in tip-top shape.”
The board will also be discussing whether to bring back a Social Worker position at the Elementary School and at what level of funding. After the position was vacated last spring the board held off filling it at that time.
“That has been a challenge at the elementary school with one Social Worker and a part time Guidance Counselor in the building, so that will be part of our dialogue to refill that position,” he said.
Brooks said at the moment new position requests from Principals are a bit “vague” but in March the board will discuss in greater detail what types of positions the district should have for new programming.
“I think we’re going to have to do some stop-gap work on helping children return and pick back up if there is need for additional support,” he said.
Brooks said there are indications from the State Education Department that Marlboro, “will not see a cut in their current aide package from the state, which is very good.” He said the school board will be carefully reviewing the tax levy and the district’s long-term financial planning, “to see if there is something we can do to impact in a positive way by reducing our tax levy and by doing so, not hurt us in the long term.”
Brooks said after an executive session at the last board meeting, a five-year deal with Roseton Power Generation was approved. The power plant is in the Town of Newburgh and impacts the district.
Brooks also touched upon the proposal for a new Danskammer power plant that sits next to Roseton.
“This community needs to have the Danskammer rebuild project happen. I would imagine over the next several months going into the fall this Board of Education would need to get involved at the state level in seeing that Danskammer gets approved. This Board of Education has never taken a position on the environmental elements of Danskammer. This Board of Education has 100% taken the position through the entire Danskammer rebuilding project that from a fiscal perspective Danskammer has got to be rebuilt and then restructured as a tax and pay much more revenue in that process. The nightmare for Marlboro is if that project does not get approved for a rebuild, with time Danskammer will die an iron death and so will its revenue and that’s not a good thing for the taxpayers of Marlborough.” He said the Roseton plant could also be subject to the same fate and “die an iron death of rust and age and that’s not a good thing either. I guess the ideal long term vision from a taxpayer’s perspective is that both of those plants be re-tooled to be modern, efficient, forward thinking power generators and good payers to our revenue stream. Between those two properties we get from $4 million to $5 million per year.”
Brooks said the tax agreement with Roseton was approved last week but not the Community Benefit Agreement, “which is why we hold back signatures until everything is packaged. When that does go through the school district will net more than $2.5 million additional revenue over five years. It is a win-win and is a very good thing for us in the long run.”
Brooks summarized his Superintendent’s Report by saying, “I just wanted to wet your appetite about some pretty hefty items that will be part of our dialogue in March and hopefully we’ll know an awful lot more about the landscape for aid by then.”