Board also given early 2021-22 budget numbers
The Beacon school board on Wednesday (March 24) unanimously approved selling the land beneath Dutchess Stadium to Dutchess County for $627,000, which the county will pay in cash, according to the sales contract.
The sale must be approved by voters and will be included on the May 18 ballot to approve the budget and elect four board members. The sale also must be approved by the Dutchess County Legislature.
If it clears those hurdles, the district will subdivide the 65-acre parcel and convey 33 acres, which includes the land beneath the stadium and its parking lot, to the county. The district plans to keep a 22-acre parcel with a bus garage and about 10 acres of vacant land.
The sale would resolve a complex, decades-long arrangement which involved the district leasing the land beneath the stadium to the county, which in turn leases the stadium (which it owns) to the Hudson Valley Renegades minor league baseball team.
County legislators last month approved spending $1.43 million on stadium improvements — a second phase of renovations that, after additional phases are complete, is expected to total $10 million. The county and Renegades are negotiating a long-term lease.
The Renegades had been a Class A, short-season affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays but last year agreed to become the new High Single-A farm team for the New York Yankees. That move is expected to bring more visitors and revenue to the stadium and surrounding area when play begins at home on May 11.
Superintendent Matt Landahl on Monday presented the board with preliminary budget figures for 2021-22, including an infusion of federal stimulus money that he called a “huge lift.”
The district is tentatively slated to receive $3.95 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act that must be spent on pandemic-related expenses over the next two years, including students’ academic, social and emotional needs.
“These are things that are on all of our minds right now,” Landahl said on Monday, the same day preschool and kindergarten students returned for four days per week of in-person instruction. Students in grades 1 through 8 will return for four days per week after spring break, which begins March 29, and Landahl said he will provide an update on plans at Beacon High School soon.
Federal Stimulus for Schools
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said on Tuesday (March 23) that schools in his district, which includes the Highlands, would receive more than $200 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Beacon will receive $3.95 million, the Haldane district $182,000 and the Garrison district $232,000.
Among other nearby districts, Newburgh will receive $30.3 million; Poughkeepsie, $14.6 million; Carmel, $2.84 million; Brewster, $3.4 million; Lakeland $1.53 million; and Putnam Valley, $261,000.
Including a growth factor that’s based on new development in and around Beacon, the district’s state-mandated tax cap will be 2.35 percent. That translates to a $42.6 million tax levy, which is $980,000 more than last year, explained Ann Marie Quartironi, the deputy superintendent.
The preliminary budget anticipates $76.6 million in total revenue, including, in what Quartironi said is a worst-case scenario, $30.3 million in state aid. The amount could be higher once Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators negotiate a final budget, which must be done by Thursday (April 1).
Cuomo had proposed consolidating 11 aid categories such as for textbooks, computers or transportation into one pot while deducting either already-paid federal pandemic aid or money from the School Tax Relief (STAR) property tax reimbursement program from districts’ state funding.
Leaders in the state Senate and Assembly, however, have rejected those plans and say they want to increase school aid. New York State has repaid the district for all of the pandemic-related funding cuts it made last year, Quartironi told the board.
Along with the budget, the May 18 ballot will include the seats held by Elissa Betterbid, John Galloway Jr., Jasmine Johnson and Flora Stadler, along with a proposal to spend up to $395,000 on two 72-passenger buses and three 20-passenger vans.
In other business …
On March 19, students at Rombout Middle School students were participating in a remote lesson using a third-party educational software when a screen name appeared that included a racial slur, according to Landahl. The teacher shut the software down immediately and the district began an investigation.