Education, Lead Stories

Voters OK $100.5M school budget

Registered voters in the Harrison Central School District overwhelmingly approved the 2017-2018 school district budget that calls for several capital improvements and preserves all current programs.

According to the school district’s clerk, Christine Beitler, voters approved the $100.5 million budget with an unofficial tally of 1,395 voting in favor of it and 264 against the proposal on Tuesday.

“We’re extremely pleased with the outcome of the budget vote,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Louis Wool. “We spent a considerable amount of time in the community sharing the information and clearly the message was understood and well-received.”

While increasing spending by $1.96 million over the current year’s budget, the approved proposal preserves all current programs and adds a total of 6.9 academic-based positions amongst a few other roles for extracurricular activities.

One full-time position will 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. The budget will also add 2.5 positions in the elementary schools for special education of art, music, physical education and ENL.

Additionally, 3.4 full-time positions will be added 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.

Another full-time position is designated for instructional support at the high school’s Learning Center.

On top of adding positions, Wool told the Review that the budget helped the school district achieve its goal of implementing the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program for the middle school. He added that the program, which encourages students to make practical connections between their studies and the real world, is the centerpiece of the 2017-2018 budget. “We are very fortunate that we can go back to expanding opportunities for the kids,” Wool said, explaining that the school district struggled to do so in previous years as a result of trying to stay under the tax cap.

With this budget’s approval, the school district will, in fact, stay under the state-mandated tax cap of 1.26 percent by allowably overriding it with $2.55 million in exclusions.

The district will also remain qualified for AAA bond rating, which typically calls for school district reserve funds to be around 10 percent of its total annual budget.

Wool said there’s also funding to make AP exams free for all students and described that as being one of the “most essential” parts of the budget. “For some students, AP exams were becoming prohibitive,” he said. “This year, the budget will provide those courses at no cost.”

On Tuesday, voters also re-elected three unchallenged incumbents to the Board of Education.

Board President Kelly Mulvoy Mangan and trustees Lindy Wolverton and Robert Sullivan to all serve three-year terms.

“The three of them are terrific people that have donated so much time and energy,” Wool said.

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