Haldane Trustees Discuss Budget, James Pond and Highland Valley Project

Haldane athletes earn honors on the field and in class

By Michael Turton

The Haldane Board of Education met at 5:30 p.m.on Tuesday, Dec. 4, an hour and a half earlier than the traditional start time in order to allow trustees who have seniors attending Haldane to take part in college admissions night at the high school later that evening. Although it was a relatively brief meeting, a number of significant issues were touched upon — from the upcoming budget deliberations and sale of the James Pond lands to rumblings over the Highland Valley mobile-home project and a resolution approving a bonds issue to pay for Haldane’s share of capital improvements to BOCES facilities in Yorktown Heights.

The looming budget

Superintendent of Schools Mark Villanti, left, and School Board President Michael Junjulas look over the numbers summarizing the decrease in state funding in recent years. Photo by M. Turton

Trustees did not get into much detail in discussing their fast-approaching task of putting together a 2013-14 budget, but it is clear that transparency with local residents will be an important part of the process. The district is almost certain to again face significantly reduced financial aid from the state of New York.

Superintendent of Schools Mark Villanti said he expects Gov. Andrew Cuomo to come out with the state budget in four or five weeks. He and Business Manager Anne Dinio have estimated that Haldane will again see state funding reduced by roughly $530,000. Villanti complained at Tuesday’s meeting that while Cuomo has promoted the fact that state aid to schools will increase by 4 percent overall, Haldane’s share of the $111 million pot is just $9,000. Haldane’s budget will likely exceed $22 million.

“Cuts are significantly increasing … and aid significantly decreasing for Haldane,” Villanti said. “I think you can make a case that Haldane is (being asked to shoulder) a disproportionate share of the burden.” Dinio commented later, “When you add it all up … it’s cumulative. It’s a killer.”

A budget advisory group will be formed to provide input in the budget discussions. “It’s not a committee,” Villanti said. “It’s a way to engage stakeholders.” He said that the community has to know what a challenge the budget will present. “It’s particularly important that the unions and the PTA are acquainted with the challenges we’re facing.” He said, “It will be as open a process as possible,” and hinted that the group could assist in advocacy directed at the state to seek less drastic cuts in aid.

School Board President Michael Junjulas said that he felt the advisory group “is a step in the right direction. We’ve always tried to be open. But we’re so used to doing budgets, maybe we’re not seeing something.” Trustee Evan Schwartz agreed that the advisory group might help the budget process, and that engaging stakeholder groups “also shows the urgency of the situation.”

On Jan. 15, State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef will attend a Haldane workshop to discuss the state budget and education funding. The yet-to-be-confirmed winner of the state senate race between Stephen Saland and Terry Gipson has also been invited to attend. “We should fill the room,” Junjulas said in urging the community and stakeholder groups to attend.

Sale of James Pond lands

It appears likely that a public notice will soon be issued regarding the sale of the 10-acre James Pond property located east of the Haldane campus. Revenue from the sale will be used to help fund improvements to the main sports field, auditorium and lockers rooms.

“It’s really important that we do this in a fair and open way,” Villanti said. He said that complete information will be provided to anyone seriously interested in purchasing the property and that while there is “no imminent time pressure,” if serious interest materializes, he would rather move on selling the property, “sooner rather than later.” Junjulus said that since the public referendum that approved the sale, “People have been coming out of the woodwork asking about it. It’s moving forward.”

The property has been valued at between $425,00 and $500,000. Haldane has used the pond for environmental education programs and would retain rights to do so as part of any sale agreement. “I think this is absolutely the right way to go, and the sooner we get the ball rolling the better,” said Trustee Peter Henderson, commenting on issuing the public notice of sale.

Highland Valley project alive again?

Villanti reported that recent actions taken in Fishkill could possibly signal renewed movement in the proposal to build a mobile-home park on Route 9 just beyond Philipstown’s northern boundary, an area that lies within the Haldane Central School District. The proposed development caused great concern among local residents and political leaders in 2010 over fears that up to 100 students living there would attend Haldane, adding a heavy financial burden to Philipstown tax-payers even though the development would be located in the Town of Fishkill.

Villanti said that at a Fishkill Town Board meeting last week, the developer donated land to the town in exchange for the right to buy water from Fishkill. He said that, in and of itself, it may not mean anything, but it could result in improved infrastructure for the development site. “It could be a warning sign,” he said. Villanti intends to provide monthly updates at future Haldane meetings.

BOCES project funding

Trustees unanimously passed a resolution approving the issuing of bonds to fund Haldane’s $250,198 share in capital improvements to be undertaken at the BOCES campus in Yorktown Heights. BOCES serves Putnam County and Northern Westchester County. Eighteen school districts are funding the project on a prorated basis.

Athletic teams excel on the field and in class

Junjulas reported that all seven of Haldane’s teams qualified for New York State Public High School Athletic Association Scholar/Athlete Team Awards. It was the first time in school history that all teams have achieved that distinction. Scholar/Team Athlete Awards were earned by the football, girls volleyball, boys soccer, girls cross-country, girls tennis, girls soccer and boys cross-country teams.

A certain number of team members must achieve marks averaging 90 percent or better. The number of student athletes required to meet that standard varies with each sport. Haldane’s teams chalked up averages ranging from 90.1 to 97.7 percent.

The girls volleyball team also won the New York State Sportsmanship Award and was voted the Hudson Valley Team of the Year by MSG Varsity.

Boys cross country, girls cross country, girls soccer and girls volleyball each won Section 1 titles.

Haldane to compete on MSG Varsity TV’s The Challenge

Haldane will take on Valhalla High School on MSG Varsity TV’s The Challenge on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 6:30 p.m. The Challenge is an award-winning, academic quiz show for high schools that features the best and brightest students from across the tri-state area. Jared Cotter, former FUSE TV host and a popular semi-finalist on American Idol, serves as moderator, asking competing teams questions in such areas as history, arts and literature, current events, math and science.

The program is now in its 16th season. While Villanti declined to give the final result — the program was recorded previously — he did hint rather strongly the Haldane team will move on to face another opponent in the next round.

From 10516 With Love: A Hurricane Sandy Relief Concert

Haldane will host “From 10516 With Love: A Hurricane Sandy Relief Concert” with WHUD’s Mike Bennett as MC, on Sunday, Dec. 9 from 1 to 5 p.m. Proceeds will go to the East Rockaway School District, a small district with about 1,500 students. East Rockaway’s secondary school was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The concert will feature a myriad of top, local performers, along with talented Haldane musicians.

The family-friendly program will feature an eclectic mix of musical acts including Marc Von Em, Tiki Daddy, Pete (a.k.a. Petey) Hop Hopkinson and the Challengers, 34 Mornings and Open Book. The Haldane musical lineup will include Matthew Chason and The Adriande Bronze; guitarist and songwriter Lindy Labriola; Ben Langer on piano; Kady Neill, singing and piano; and guitarist James Rubino and his band. Tickets can be purchased at the door with a suggested donation of $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and $20 for families. The concert is being organized by Cold Spring stylist and singer Raquel Vidal.

Audit committee seeks members

It’s likely one down and one to go for the Haldane Audit Committee. The committee is seeking two community members to round out its membership after the recent resignation of two long-standing volunteers. At Tuesday’s meeting, trustees reviewed a letter of interest submitted by resident Thomas Campanile. Given Campanile’s experience with the auditing and consulting firm of Ernst & Young, he will likely be welcomed onto the committee. Trustees hope to add one other community volunteer with an appropriate background and knowledge of finance.

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