Board votes April 20
By Pamela Doan
The Haldane Central School District budget for the 2015–16 school year has a lot of enhancements, improvements and additions. Students will get more choices, new programs and more educational support. Teachers will get more training and resources to improve their skills and expertise. Taxpayers will be reimbursed by the state for the increase in property taxes that come from the school budget.
Although the budget passed by the state legislature wasn’t a jackpot, it did give the school enough to move forward with their preferred budget scenario, which includes many improvements and restores some cuts from previous years.
Business Manager Anne Dinio and Superintendent Diana Bowers presented a budget to the Board of Education at their meeting on April 7 that included their ideal scenarios for the coming school year. This is the proposal that was first reviewed by the board on March 10 and includes a few tweaks in language. The budget will go to the maximum tax levy limit, 2.72 percent, and will be brought to voters after the board approves it at their next meeting on April 20.
The budget includes funding for several new positions, including a literacy specialist for kindergarten and first grade, a technology integration specialist and a new Discover, Innovate and Create curriculum for middle school students. The district will also offer a career and technical education curriculum for eighth- and ninth-grade students who could transition into the BOCES program in 10th grade to create more alternatives for students.
Funding for teacher development includes travel and costs to send teachers to institutes and conferences at Columbia and Yale, among others, as well as in-service resources. Bowers stated her commitment to offer additional training to every teacher who wants it. Project-based learning and workshop models are among areas that they are focusing on.
Students will also benefit from additional coaches who will be added when team size reaches a certain level, more co-curricular activities and a new position for a security peace officer or security resource officer that is still to be determined.
The state budget included reforms that Bowers said are not fully understood yet. The teacher tenure system will increase from a three- to four-year probationary period and conform to a new mandate requiring an independent evaluator in teacher evaluations, among other changes.
The district will have to comply by Nov. 15 in order to receive all of the state aid. Bowers said, “For us, it’s less than $6,000, but we will make every effort to be in compliance.” It is unclear exactly what will be necessary, but Bowers is determining the impact.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 5. Board elections and the budget vote will be held on May 19. There will also be proposals on the ballot for new vehicles and Butterfield Library funding, which is separate from the school budget. The entire budget is available on the school’s website, haldaneschool.org.
Solar energy at Haldane
Haldane signed an agreement in 2013 with Monolith Solar to install solar panels on the roofs of the main building, high school and bus garage, installed at no cost to the district without any capital investment for a 20-year term. Monolith would then sell the electricity, and the district would receive a significant savings from the costs they would pay to Central Hudson for electricity. The solar panels installed on the roof would not be enough to cover the district’s entire electrical needs.
Not only is the district attempting to choose a renewable resource for more responsible energy consumption, it also has an interest in making the project an educational tool for students.
A representative from Monolith attended the meeting to present a new possibility for the district to get renewable energy. Monolith is proposing to set up remote net metering on a piece of property within the district, a minimum of 1.5 acres, and will install solar panels on the property and give Haldane an even better benefit.
Haldane would save an average of 33 percent on their electric utility bill. The advantages of this plan are that the school wouldn’t need to have panels on their buildings, the panels could be optimally installed on land for maximum efficiency and output, and the students could visit the solar farm as a learning tool.
State regulations require that the solar farm be located within the district. Board members pointed out that the district has more than 10 acres available for sale within their boundaries right now, the James Pond property. Board President Joe Curto asked the representative to present a scenario that included panels on the bus garage or high school, as well as investigating the adjacent James Pond property that the district has for sale as a site for the solar farm.
When Monolith Solar has looked into that as a possibility, the board will revisit the issue. A copy of the solar presentation with all the calculations between the two concepts is available on the district website.
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