Increased state aid allows for revised budget
Thanks to some newfound state aid, the Garrison school board revised its proposed 2022-2023 budget at its meeting Tuesday (April 19) to include a 9.2 percent tax levy increase, down slightly from the 10 percent increase previously proposed.
The increase would still exceed Garrison’s state-mandated tax cap of 2.2 percent. An override of the cap would have to be approved by 60 percent of the voters on May 17. Superintendent Carl Albano said the district needs the increase to fund $12.36 million in spending for 2022-23, an increase of 6 percent from this year.
Albano said the district received additional state funding in recent weeks through the efforts of state Sen. James Skoufis, who because of redistricting would represent the Highlands if he is re-elected in November. In its budget for 2022-23, the Legislature provided an additional $270,000 for the district. Of those funds, $180,000 is unrestricted and $90,000 is designated for capital improvements.
Albano said that the board has chosen to use $80,000 from the unrestricted funds to help with the 2022-23 budget and the remainder for capital improvements, including roof repair.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Albano announced that:
- The district is considering ways to provide property tax relief for seniors on fixed incomes, such as offering residents older than 65 a reduction in their bills of up to 50 percent, depending on need, with an annual income cap of about $37,000. If approved, the exemption would begin with the 2023-24 budget cycle.
- The district is eligible for the first time for prekindergarten funding of as much as $108,000. With the money, Albano said, Garrison could create a program for up to 18 students who turn 4 by Dec. 1 of this year. He said the district must first analyze if there is a need for the program.
In meetings from earlier this year:
- The board approved an agreement with Erin Wik for photography services at $175 per hour (Jan. 5).
- The board hired Tetra Tech Architects and Engineers to conduct a building condition survey (Jan. 5).
- Board member Madeline Julian inquired about plans to provide an outdoor toilet in the Garrison School Forest (Jan. 19). On April 20, Albano said the toilet will likely be installed in 2023. Because of the approvals needed, “it’s a little more complicated than we thought,” he said.
- The board approved hiring Caitlin Moreno as an academic intervention services teacher (Jan. 19).
- Michael Twardy, director of facilities and transportation, announced that he planned to retire (Jan. 19), as did teacher Robin Waters (Feb. 2).
- With Twardy’s departure, the board restructured the facilities and transportation department to save $50,000 annually (Feb. 2).
- Joseph Jimick, the business administrator, explained funding that would be coming to Garrison from the federal American Rescue Plan (Feb. 2). Albano said this week that the district has since received $234,351 in ARP funds, which it plans to use for tutoring and a summer academic program. Under federal guidelines, pandemic relief money cannot be used to lower taxes.