B y PJ Ferguson

The Whitehall Central School District’s budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year passed unanimously at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, and voters will get their say via absentee ballot on June 9.

The proposed budget, which totals $17,083,791, is a 1.12% increase from the 2019-2020 school budget. This equates to a 1.95% tax levy increase, raising about an additional $189,000 for the district.

“We are in a far different place than we were when we started last year,” said school business manager Kate DuBois as she introduced the budget to the board during their virtual meeting.

The state caps the school tax levy at 4.23%.

School officials said residents with a home assessed at $100,000 will see an approximately $10 increase in their taxes.

“It should have a minimal impact on the individual taxpayer but allow us to maintain programs,” said DuBois regarding the tax levy.

As a “status quo” budget, this proposal maintains programs and opportunities for students. Staffing levels will be maintained as any reduction in staff would eliminate programs and opportunities.

Whitehall still maintains the third lowest per-pupil cost for instruction out of the 31 regional school districts.

Superintendent Patrick Dee thanked DuBois for her work with drafting the budget.

“We’re able to continue to head on the positive path that we’ve been going for the past several years in the district programmatically for our students,” said Dee, touting DuBois efforts and the district not cutting any programs.

However, the intramural sports programs are on the chopping block if the budget does not pass on June 9.

Though as Gov. Andrew Cuomo warns of possible looming cuts to school funding, the budget is subject to change as a result of how much state aid is received. DuBois said they would “monitor” their revenue and “adjust spending accordingly.”

Moving forward, the district will be intelligently utilizing its fund balance and reserve funds, as well as unallocated funds from the 2019-2020 school year, to fill budgetary gaps that arose as a result of limited state funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On sorta the bright side, we have saved a substantial amount of money with this shutdown,” said DuBois, listing items such as transportation and supplies where the district has spent less. “The savings will be transferred to the district’s fund balance and will be used to help the school “get through this financial situation.”

The Whitehall district has navigated through the fiscal uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic unscathed compared to other local schools. The Fort Edward school district is proposing a 19% tax levy increase while neighboring Granville approved a budget Tuesday night which, while tax neutral, also calls for the laying off of 11 district employees.

The board will hold a hearing on the budget on June 1 at 6 p.m. A link will be available to the audio of the meeting at the school website, railroaders.net, about 15 minutes before the meeting begins.

Furthermore, residents will be asked to approve the purchase of a 65-passenger school bus as well as the purchase of a 30-passenger wheelchair accessible school bus at a cost that will not exceed $260,119.

“I am confident that the budget that will be put forth to the voters on June 9th by the Whitehall Board of Education is both fair and reasonable during these difficult times,” Dee said in a follow-up message. “Our students continue to be our number one priority; and this budget maintains the programs and opportunity that will allow our dedicated and professional educators of Whitehall to help our students grow and learn and succeed now and into the future.”

Voters of the past four district elections will be mailed absentee ballots with a paid postage return envelope. Completed ballots must be mailed and received by the district clerk, Kim Manney, by 5p.m. on Tuesday, June 9. If you did not vote in any of the past four district elections, or have questions on receiving your ballot, email [email protected].

Duncan Campbell also contributed to this report.

 

 

 

 

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