Notes from the Haldane School Board

Updates from January and February meetings

By Lily Gordon

Haldane faces a deficit of $385,000 in its 2018-19 budget, according to preliminary calculations following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Jan. 17 announcement of his proposed state budget.

“It’s a larger gap than last year,” Anne Dinio, the district’s business manager, told members of the Haldane school board. “The insurance increase was big this year.”

She was referring to the Haldane Central School District’s health insurance premiums, which are projected to increase by 3.75 percent, or about $300,000. The district budget for 2017-18 totals $23.5 million.

The tax cap — the state-mandated limit that schools can increase the budget it presents for voter approval in May — is projected to be 2 percent in 2018-19, compared to this year’s 1.26 percent. Adjustments are then made for each school district based on various factors. For Haldane, the tax cap will be about 2.62 percent, according to Dinio.

New York School Tax Caps

2015-16: 1.62 percent
2016-17: 0.12 percent
2016-17: 1.26 percent
2017-18: 2 percent

Haldane’s measure of “financial stress” — a percentage that takes into account “fund balances, cash position, use of short-term debt and fixed costs” — was rated a healthy zero as of Dec. 31, said Dinio. The district has a strong credit score, allowing it to secure debt at lower rates.

One proposition that will be presented to voters in May is the re-establishment of the Capital Reserve Fund, which expires this year. Established in 2008 for a 10-year term with a maximum amount of $1 million, the fund supports facilities improvements.

The extension would not cost taxpayers any money, said Dinio. The district’s buildings are being evaluated for improvements, including upgrades to the water heating system and electrical infrastructure. The board has also discussed repainting the gym.

In other business…

  • Board members discussed the future of mental health services at Haldane. “My dream for Haldane is that kids can go get math help just as easily as they go get help from their therapist,” said Trustee Jen Daly at the Jan. 18 meeting. “That it’s all part of the equation, there’s no stigma behind it, and it’s always available.” According to Superintendent Diana Bowers, the district is communicating with CoveCare Center, a nonprofit mental health organization based in Brewster, about securing grants to pay for an additional support services counselor at Haldane.
  • Since Haldane has had five snow days, school will be in session on April 2, which was originally planned to be a day off.
  • The application deadline in the district’s search for a successor for Bowers, who will retire at the end of the school year, concluded Feb. 2. The next step is to schedule interviews.
  • Haldane is the best and safest school district in Putnam County, as well as the best place to teach and the school with the best teachers, according to Niche.com, a site that analyzes public education data. It ranked 563 of 10,574 districts nationally among the “best school districts in America,” and was 73rd in New York state. The Garrison School was named the best elementary and middle school in Putnam County. The best school in the U.S., according to the site, is Solon, Ohio, and the highest-ranked district in New York is the Jericho Union Free School District on Long Island, at No. 12.

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