The Harrison Central School District superintendent presented a proposed budget last month that would preserve all current school programs and add 6.9 total academic positions.
“This is the first time in a long time that I feel we’ll be able to get back to improving and advancing our academic mission,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. Louis Wool, who explained that it would be the first time in many years that the school district wouldn’t have to cut programming.
In crafting the preliminary budget, one full-time position would be added at Louis M. Klein Middle School for music, art, physical education and the English as a New Language program, ENL, which offers non-native speakers the opportunity to improve their English skills; it would also add 2.5 positions in the elementary schools for special education of art, music, physical education and ENL.
Another full-time position for instructional support at the high school’s Learning Center would be added under this budget.
Additionally, the proposed budget calls for adding 3.4 full-time positions for adaptive theater, ENL, the English Language Arts program, science, business and technology at Harrison High School. Those positions are also designated for dance, music and art, and will accommodate growing enrollment.
Wool explained that the additional positions come as a way to help deal with the steady enrollment increase over the last few years in the high school. “It always plays a factor and continues to play a factor in schools,” he said.
The superintendent added that drafting this year’s budget comes with a sense of relief considering the school district was able to remain under the state-mandated tax cap.
“In a tax cap environment, you usually have choices to make in which you have to constrict and reduce programming,” Wool said.
While managing to remain under the state-mandated tax cap, the draft budget calls for a $1.96 million increase in spending with an estimated tax levy increase of 1.85 percent.
The school district’s budget allowably overrides the 1.26 tax cap with an estimated $2.55 million in exclusions.
According to Bob Salierno, the assistant superintendent for business, the school district would use $800,000 carried over from the current year’s budget and $200,000 from the employee retirement fund to help balance the 2017-2018 budget.
This budget would help the school district remain qualified for an AAA bond rating, which typically calls for a school district’s reserves to be around 10 percent of its total annual budget.
In addition to the many academic staffing additions, Wool told the Review that the school district has also designated room for adding an assistant athletic director and another cheerleading coach.
With an increase in spending, the school district also budgeted for several capital improvements to accompany $46.5 million in upgrades that were already approved for borrowing through a public referendum last October that drew overwhelming support from the community.
According to Salierno, the school district has included two separate capital projects in this year’s budget. There is funding designated for resurfacing the high school’s track and partially replacing the school’s roof.
The budget is expected to be voted on for adoption by the Board of Education on April 19. The adopted budget will then be voted on by the public on May 16.
Since the budget is proposed under the tax cap, it would require only a simple majority of voter approval to pass.