Budget prep, teacher pay, non-resident tuition
By Chip Rowe
The Garrison school board is busy preparing its budget for the 2019-20 school year to present to voters on May 21.
The estimated state tax cap for the district is 2.08 percent, which allows an increase to the budget of about $189,000, to $11.1 million. Workshops will be held at the school on March 9 and March 14 before the numbers are finalized.
Garrison is expected to receive about $914,000 in state aid, or $25,000 less than last year. The budget also will likely include about $20,000 for a school van to replace one that has reached 175,000 miles.
Kris Lanchantin, the district’s lawyer, advised against a plan to include two propositions on the May 21 ballot — one for a traditional heating system and a second for a more expensive geothermal system — and Board President Ray O’Rourke said the district’s bond counsel had the same reaction.
Jill Lake, a board member, said the Facilities Committee recommended accepting the advice of the attorneys and presenting only a single proposition, which the board agreed would be to fund a high-efficiency hot water heating system plus air conditioning in elementary and middle school classrooms. As of last fall it was estimated to cost $7.6 million.
Two seats on the seven-member board — held by Lake and Derek DuBois — will be on the ballot, as well. Lake plans to run for her second, three-year term; DuBois did not immediately respond to an email asking about his plans. Nominating petitions are due April 22.
A three-year agreement that the board approved in January increased the annual raises provided to Garrison’s teachers by 1 percent. Under the contract, the entry-level salary for 2018-19 is $57,848; for a teacher who has been with the district for at least 16 years and has a master’s degree, it is $112,323. At top of the scale, a teacher who has a master’s degree and has taught for at least 30 years at the school will earn $115,873 this year.
Teachers with at least 16 years of service will receive an additional $1,000 in the current and each of the next two school years, down from $1,250 annually in the previous contract. The contract also increased one-time longevity payments for teachers by $150 to $2,150 at 18 years, $2,650 at 21 years and $3,150 at 24 years, and added a payment of $4,000 for teachers who reach 27 years.
At the same time, teachers will be required to pay more of their health insurance premiums. The size of their contribution has increased annually — it was 12 percent in 2015 and will be 13.5 percent in 2020.
Eric Arnold, a Garrison resident who resides in the Lakeland Central School District, in December asked the board to consider a policy that would allow students who live in Philipstown but are not residents of the district to attend the school if their families pay tuition. He noted that Haldane allows this. (It does not require students to live in Philipstown.)
Tuition rates are set by the state and have been since 1949 with a formula that is roughly the amount of its expenditures divided by the number of students (see chart, below). While the state also calculates the annual cost for students with learning disabilities, districts cannot charge any student more than the standard tuition.
The board has taken no action on Arnold’s request, although O’Rourke said it had received a note from one parent who was strongly opposed to the idea. “Our focus has instead been on advancing the capital construction project, preparing the budget and finalizing the agreement with the Garrison Teachers’ Association,” he said.
In other business …
The board approved a three-year contract with BestWeb Corp. for internet and phone services for $1,745 monthly, with 50 percent of that cost reimbursed by the federal government. It also approved a $62,000 contract with EduTek to consolidate the school’s piecemeal wireless system. About half of that cost will be covered by state and federal grants.
The district has drafted an agreement with two Boy Scouts who would like to renovate a cabin in the Garrison School Forest for use by Scouts and the community. The cost for materials, which would be raised by the Scouts, would be $3,800.