By Alberto Gilman
The Wallkill Central School District presented a proposed current working budget of $85.4 million for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year that featured a new-full time athletic trainer, a district-wide social worker, modified basketball and two sections of Universal Pre-Kindergarten [UPK].
Previously reported last spring, district voters approved a $81.7 million budget and a $43.8 million district capital project for building site work and improvements. New York State aid figures were currently being awaited to be shared with the district as the state budget nears its April 1 deadline, according to Wallkill Superintendent Kevin Castle. The presented budget was built using anticipated figures from the state.
“The assembly and senate [New York State] both are agreeing with the governor’s [Kathy Hochul] proposal with the Foundation Aid increase. The state budget we anticipate will be approved by April 1. So when the time comes to present this to you to be approved to go out to voters, there’s a good chance the numbers are going to look like this,” said Castle. “If something drastically changes, I don’t think it’s going to be for the bad, if anything it’ll be for the good. We may have to reconvene before the April meeting.” The next meeting for the board will be on April 18 at Leptondale Elementary School where the board would be prepared to approve the proposed district budget.
If extra funds are received by the district, then the district would work towards further reducing the tax levy according to Castle. With the creation of the district budget, it addressed several discussed board goals and two sections of universal pre-kindergarten which were able to be included and to keep the budget below the tax levy cap.
With a slideshow presentation, Brian Devincenzi, Wallkill Assistant Superintendent for Support Services, shared with the board the proposed 2023-2024 Current Working Budget at $85,042,709. The 2023-2024 Tax Levy at the tax cap was listed at $47,090,480. Devincenzi again shared, following Castle’s comments, that the district would look to remain under the tax cap. A proposed Tax Levy increase at the cap of 2.85% was also presented to the board.
For proposed programs/positions, the district’s projected total cost was presented at $367,972. The breakdown of the amount was for a new athletic trainer at the cost of $100,000. According to Castle, the district has a current part-time athletic trainer, and a full-time athletic trainer was a board goal previously discussed for the upcoming year.
A new district-wide social worker at the cost of $100,000 was also proposed. “We [the district] would add another social worker at the elementary level. We do have one [social worker] in each building,” said Devincenzi. There are currently five main school buildings, Wallkill Senior High School, John G. Borden Middle School, and Leptondale, Ostrander and Plattekill Elementary, within the district.
The district would potentially look for engagement nights for parents and further counseling for students should they require it. “As we’ve seen across the nation, there are upticks in terms of needs for our students, and we felt this would be prudent in order to assist that,” said Devincenzi.
The addition of basketball to the unified sports program at a cost of $10,000 and two sections of in-house universal pre-kindergarten at a cost of $157,972 were also presented. As a note for the board and public, the district’s attorney was reviewing request for proposal (RFP) submissions from two outside providers for the UPK. According to Castle, the two providers who submitted RFPs were Patty Cake Playhouse Inc. and Building Blocks.
According to Castle, the district was required to send out RFP submissions to any eligible agencies that could offer UPK. However, there were no agencies within the district boundaries that submitted an RFP for UPK. Two agencies outside the boundary did submit RFPs but if requirements are not met, then the district may have to reject the submissions. “We should know by next week [week of March 27 - 31] whether or not their submissions meet the requirements of the RFP,” said Castle.
As stated, the final state aid numbers for the district are expected to be received on or about April 1, 2023. For the state aid for Wallkill, the district estimated $35.2 million. Additional aid comes from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). “We hope to have an on-time budget,” said Devincenzi.
An estimated appropriated fund balance of $723,000 was presented, Total Appropriated Reserves were presented at $1.57 million and other sources of funding were estimated at $1.2 million which would lead to a projected $46.6 million tax levy. For clarification, the $46.6 million levy was $395,480 below the tax levy limit. The tax levy percent increase was projected at 1.99% for the total $85.4 million revenue. This would lead to a projected budget increase of 4.52%. “Each year, we’ve been at or below the levy,” said Devincenzi. “We’ve been able to maintain programs and enhance at the same time.”
Discussing the proposed in-house UPK program, Castle shared that the state does assist with funding for the program. The $157,972 previously mentioned would be used for two sections of UPK. With a decrease in enrollment in two elementary school buildings, the district felt this coming year would be the right time to implement the program. The location for the UPK program would be at Ostrander and Plattekill Elementary. No transportation would be provided however. District parents who would want their children in UPK would be a part of a random lottery system and would be required to complete an application and then be selected.
The UPK program would have 18 students per class with one full-time teacher at the cost of $100,000 that included salary and benefits. One full-time teacher’s aide with included salary and benefits would cost $65,000 and a part-time teacher’s aide at the cost of $25,000. No health insurance would be included for the part-time aide. Materials and supplies would cost $10,000 and Gross Cost Per Section would be $200,000. Total Gross Cost for two UPK sections in the district would be $400,000. This proposed Total Gross Cost would be without state aid.
However, with state aid, according to Castle, there are several allotments of funds for the district to use.
According to the presentation notes, the first allotment must be used first before funds can be used from the second allotment, and the third allotment can be used if the first two funds are exhausted. The first allotment at $6,723 can serve a maximum of 45 students. The second allotment at $7,126 can serve a maximum number of 36 students. The third allotment at $7,476 can serve a maximum number of 38 students. The first allotment expires after the 2023-2024 school year.
With the proposed 36 students for the UPK times the first allotment of $6,723, the total aid would be a proposed $242,028. With the projected Total Gross Cost of two UPK sections at $400,000 subtracted from $242,028, the net cost to implement the two sections would be a proposed $157,972, .34% of the total tax levy.
The board also approved five capital improvement project contracts and nine State and Cooperative Vendor Contracts related to the Capital Improvement Project for the district. Castle did note to the board that several construction materials for the security vestibules and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are experiencing supply issues and potentially could be pushed back to 2024.
More recently, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) has approved the Phase I Capital Project Plans. Phase I, set to begin in Summer 2023, would see parking lot and sidewalk reconstruction, classroom door hardware replacements and drainage improvements at Don Andrews Field at the high school. Auditorium seating and classroom door hardware replacements would take place at the middle school. Roof reconstruction and roof structural reinforcement, classroom door hardware replacements, booster pump replacements, water system reconstructions and water softener/filter systems would take place at Plattekill. Roof reconstruction and roof structural reinforcement, classroom door hardware replacements, sidewalk reconstruction, spline ceiling replacements and playground replacement would take place at Ostrander, and roof reconstruction and roof structural reinforcement, classroom door hardware replacements and spline ceiling replacements would be completed at Leptondale.