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Residents to Vote on $38.82M School Budget

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By Rich Place

Residents of the SGI School District on Tuesday will have their opportunity to cast a ballot for a proposed $38.82 million budget for the 2018-19 school year that includes a 3.91 percent increase of the local tax levy.

The budget proposal will be one of three propositions on the ballot, as voters can also vote for the purchase of school buses and also a $14.73 million capital project that will move the district offices to make room for a new P-TECH program.

Along with presentations from school administration May 1 on the P-TECH program, school business administrator Maureen Lee presented the proposed 2018-19 budget during a public hearing and outlined key changes compared to the current spending plan.

The public presentation came following months of budget preparation by the business office, school administrators and the school board, including a line-by-line overview of the budget with the board on March 6. The board unanimously approved the tentative spending plan on March 20 to pave the way for the vote by residents on Tuesday.

Perhaps most notable in the proposed budget is the $1.98 million jump in spending — a 5.4 percent increase compared to $36.84 million this year — due mostly to a $1.11 million increase in the special education aspect of the plan.

“It’s a pretty big number,” Lee said during the public hearing. “We had additional students who came into the district after the budget was approved last year, and we have additional costs ongoing this year so we are budgeting appropriately for that.”

The jump raised the program component of the budget — which is the largest aspect of the three-part plan — by $1.96 million to a total of $29.49 million. The administrative component of the budget decreased $144,309 and the capital component increased only $166,730.

Also contributing to the higher budget was $538,422 in employee benefits and $773,568 in contractual increases.

To help offset the increased costs, Lee said there was a transfer from the retirement reserve of $284,650 and from the reserve for bonded debt for $636,123. A total of $675,000 will come from health insurance contributions.

The tax levy was also increased by $621,644 to a total of $16.52 million. The increased tax levy stays within the tax cap, Lee noted.

She added that throughout the budget, some costs were reduced in an effort to help balance the budget.

“We had $240,133 in other decreases, so to try and offset that high special education cost, we found other places without … cutting any programs, without cutting any staff,” she said.

The second proposition on the ballot will be for the purchase of seven 66-passenger buses and three 16-passenger buses as part of the accelerated bus replacement schedule. Lee said this is the third year of the initiative to reduce the turnover of buses to approximately every five years.

These two propositions will be in addition to the P-TECH project vote as well as the school board election, which is uncontested. The seats of Daniel J. Miess and Tyler Sullivan are both up for re-election this year, and the two incumbents are running unopposed.

The school budget vote and board member election will be held from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 15 in three locations throughout the district: the high school main foyer at 290 N. Buffalo St. (Polling District 3); the Colden Elementary School, 8263 Boston Colden Road in Colden (Polling District 2) and the Collins Center Fire Hall on Main Street in Collins Center (Polling District 1).

P-TECH Project Will Be Third Proposition on Ballot

By Rich Place

Along with the traditional opportunities to vote for the upcoming school budget, bus purchases and board members, residents in the SGI School District will have the chance Tuesday to vote on a $14.73 million capital project to bring a P-TECH program to Springville.

The proposal will be the third proposition on the ballots during the annual school budget vote.

The project, if approved by voters, will move the district offices to the middle school and, by September 2020, will transform the current district office building into an educational center in partnership with Alfred State College and Erie 2 BOCES.

The program will be utilized by all 27 districts in the local BOCES system, including SGI, and graduates of the program will receive not only a Regents diploma but also an associate’s degree.

“The typical P-TECH student is the student who likely would otherwise probably not go to college,” explained SGI Superintendent Kimberly Moritz during a public hearing on the project on May 1. “It’s a student we want to help get to that diploma and then get into the industry and get into working, and Alfred State is very interested because it helps prepare tradesmen, which is something that we all know we desperately need in this day and age.”

Moritz and the school board have learned a lot about P-TECH, which stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School, since being introduced to it late last year. She said program officials had originally been eying the Colden Elementary School as a potential location, but attention shifted to the district office building on Newman Street, in part, to allow the building to be eligible for state aid as a student space.

The P-TECH program is scheduled to begin this September by utilizing two classrooms with 21 students — including five from the SGI district — in the SGI High School. It will grow during its early years, including utilizing four or five classrooms the following year, Moritz said.

“I have to say the excitement from the families we met with was unbelievable,” she noted. “This is a great opportunity for kids and families. But you see we can’t sustain this program in this building after those first two years. That’s why this project has been moved along quickly, because we want to make sure it’s ready to open in September 2020.”

A bit untraditional during a hearing on a capital project, Moritz spent the majority of the time during the May 1 meeting on the program itself rather than the financial implication. That’s due partially to the uniqueness of the partnership between Alfred State, Erie 2 BOCES and the school and also, as Moritz said, because the project has no direct financial impact on Springville residents.

“We will always own the building and the space, as it’s renovated,” Moritz said. “There is no local share to the taxpayer because we have a lease agreement … that the Erie 2 BOCES will pay the local share as a lease payment to us.”

The school board approved that lease agreement later in the May 1 meeting in anticipation of the upcoming vote. It also included that Erie 2 BOCES will be responsible for utilities.

When asked what could happen if the program is not as populated as expected, Moritz noted that although the program is new for this area, there are dozens of them already experiencing success around the state. However, if it did not meet expectations, the financial burden will not fall on the district.

“It’s not our financial risk,” she said. “It is the financial risk of Alfred State and BOCES because of our lease agreement.”

The program will be fully staffed with its own principal, counselor and nurse in addition to both the general education and trade program teachers, Moritz said, noting that staff will be paid for by Erie 2 BOCES.

Questions during the public hearing included one about green space after one of the architectural drawings appeared to have the district office building close to Newman Street but, in reality, will retain about 30 feet of green space as it is currently situated.

Another question was about parking, and Moritz said the middle school lot — where “there are countless empty spots” on a given day, she said — will be utilized. Plus, bus drop-offs for the program will be staggered from the Springville district’s drop-offs.

The Springville P-TECH campus will allow students to study either electrical construction and maintenance electrician or computer information systems.

“The students who (middle school principal) Ms. (Shanda) DuClon has talked to at the middle school are very excited, they see it almost as like this new lease on educational life for them,” Moritz said. “It’s not the same pathway that everyone else is following.”

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