School Budgets Up for Vote May 19

Tax increases for both districts under levy limit

By Pamela Doan

Tuesday, May 19, voters make their annual trek to the polls to vote yay or nay on the budgets for the Haldane Central School District and the Garrison Union Free School district along with two other issues and Board of Education candidates. While it’s been a relatively uneventful budget process in both districts, this is the largest tax bill that Philipstown residents pay, and understanding what happens with that money matters to many people.

Haldane Superintendent Diana Bowers and Board of Education members have been trying to dissuade voters to think of the school levy vote on May 19 as a tax increase, however. In 2014, as part of a state government initiative to ease the burden on both property owners and school districts that struggle to stay within the tax levy limit, taxpayers in both districts qualified for a state government rebate for the increase in taxes.

By meeting certain conditions for efficiencies, consolidating services and staying within the levy limit, district taxpayers will again be eligible for the rebate this year. Taxes will still be as high, but that extra 2 percent is supposed to come back as a check from the state later in the year. The rebate is a three-year program running from 2014 through 2016.

If a school budget is twice rejected at the polls, the Board of Education must resort to a budget that has no increase, which would certainly lead to difficult choices and many dismayed parents and schoolchildren. Full details about each budget are available on the districts’ websites.

Haldane School budget

Haldane’s tax levy limit is 2.72 percent, and the district is seeking all of the funding they are allowed under the cap. Bowers identified ways to consolidate services and do things differently to reallocate money that was already in the budget to other programs. Along with state aid, the district is able to enhance, expand and add new programs, staff and resources for teacher development.

Some highlights of the budget include a literacy specialist for kindergarten and first-grade students, a new Technology Integration Specialist position, a new teacher and curriculum for Discover, Innovate and Create classes for middle school students, career and technical education curriculum for eighth- and ninth-grade students, more co-curricular activities and additional coaches for sports teams with large numbers of participants, and either a security peace officer or a security resource officer position, depending on funding.

The Haldane budget and trustee vote is Tuesday, May 19, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Room 105.

Garrison School budget

The budget has increased by $150,000 from 2014 to 2015, and the impact on taxpayers is 2.10 percent. The amount is within the tax levy limit. All of the district’s current programs and positions remain fully funded, and there weren’t any cuts.

For the first time this year, the board dipped into the district’s reserve funds. Superintendent Laura Mitchel said that they have a five-year plan to balance out the fund balance and preserve it.

Some of the programs that the budget covers are accelerated science, math and Spanish language classes for middle-school students, foreign-language options beginning in elementary school, innovations to use technology as a teaching aide, professional development for teachers to meet Common Core standards, and sports, visual and performing arts programs.

The Garrison budget and trustee vote is Tuesday, May 19, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the school library.

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