Annual School Budget & Board Member Vote Set for Tuesday, May 16, 2-9 pm, at Bulkeley Middle School Cafeteria; Proposed 2017-18 Budget Preserves Programs and Services in Challenging Budget Year
At a Special Meeting on April 20, 2017, the Rhinebeck Board of Education adopted a proposed budget of $33,121,397 for the 2017-18 school year. This proposed expenditure plan represents a budget-to-budget increase of 3.07% over the current year’s budget. Voting on the 2017-18 budget proposal and to fill two three-year vacancies on the Board of Education will be held in the Bulkeley Middle School cafeteria from 2:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16th for registered school district voters.
The proposed 2017-18 budget will increase the tax levy by 3.88%, an increase of 1.7% beyond the District’s 2.18% tax levy limit. According to the State’s tax levy cap legislation, a vote of 60% or more is required for passage.
For a median school district home, valued at $291,500 with Basic STAR, the annual impact of exceeding the tax levy cap is estimated at $67.77 ($1.31 per week) for 2017-18. While tax rates are not set until August, most District taxpayers (96.5%) benefitted from a 0.4% decrease in their school tax rate in 2016-17 as a result of properties added to the tax rolls.
Objectives - The Board of Education and the administrative staff have developed the proposed budget in an effort to balance anticipated expenditure increases with a dedication to maintaining the quality of education that the community expects and deserves for its children and its future. Passage of the proposed 2017-18 school budget will benefit the District by:
- improving the District’s financial position to remain within the tax levy cap limit in future years;
- maintaining staffing levels that support current programs/services for students; and
- continuing to provide programs and services for which Rhinebeck schools are known both regionally and nationally.
Challenges - As we enter the sixth year of the New York State tax levy cap legislation, reductions due to declining enrollment have provided some relief, but not enough to sustain the same level of nationally recognized educational services that residents have come to expect without an override of the tax levy cap. The District is committed to reducing staffing by not replacing staff members who leave the District as a result of retirements or for other reasons, whenever possible.
Nevertheless, New York State has designated Rhinebeck as a “low needs/high wealth” school district, using a formula based upon personal income and property value. As a result, the coming year’s State Foundation Aid will increase by only $49,513, and has not kept pace with expenditures, such as rising health insurance costs and mandated special education services, which are largely beyond the school district’s control. The impact of dwindling reserves and mounting costs on the core operation of our schools has been compounded over the last few planning cycles as successive budget cuts have had to be made. In grappling with these challenges, the proposed 2017-18 budget will continue to maintain high-achieving schools, exemplary programs, and successful students, as determined by any measure.
Board members and District administrators have been actively lobbying for additional State Aid and for legislative changes to New York State’s formulas for funding public education. Our local legislators have regularly reminded us that school districts have the option under the law to ask their voters to exceed the tax levy cap if 60% or more of a district’s residents vote to support doing so. In this year’s lengthy budget development discussions, the Rhinebeck BOE has decided that it is both necessary and appropriate to ask our community to consider a tax levy cap override for the coming year.
Our Schools - Budget planning for 2017-18 continues to provide:
- favorable student-teacher ratios in the District’s elementary, middle, and high school;
- ongoing local curriculum development and professional training initiatives to reinforce rigorous academic standards for all students; and
- resources for increased student and staff access to technology to enhance teaching and learning.
The District continues to maintain a wide variety of opportunities for student engagement and success, both within and outside the classroom, through careful assessment of how these programs support student learning. Local and regional programs at all grade levels will continue with the ongoing approval of the community. These include:
- collaborations with Bard and Marist Colleges in the arts and the sciences;
- partnerships with area Arts-In-Education organizations such as the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Project and the Education Network for Teachers and Artists that enrich the curriculum;
- locally-developed field trips;
- before-and after-school enrichment, extra-help and club activities; and
- a robust interscholastic athletic program.
The school district’s cumulative K-12 successes are evidenced by a number of outcomes:
- over 90% of Rhinebeck students graduate each year, and more than 90% of those diploma recipients indicate post-graduation plans that include two-year or four-year college attendance;
- Rhinebeck High School again this year has been recognized by US News and World Report as one of the “Best High Schools” in New York State and in the United States; and
- The Washington Post has named Rhinebeck High School as one of the nation’s “Most Challenging High Schools” for several consecutive years.
The Future - Particularly in light of declining enrollment, the Board has made long-range financial planning its single most important priority. An ad hoc committee of the Board has been authorized and will begin its work this summer in preparation for the 2018-19 school year budget cycle and beyond. Community participation in these efforts will be welcomed.
Board of Education Openings - Regarding Board of Education member representation, Jaclyn Savolainen, Joseph Baer, and Elizabeth Raum, have submitted duly executed petitions for election to the two Board seats that are open this year, each for a three-year term. These choices will be included on the May 16th ballot, along with the 2017-18 school budget proposal.
The Vote - If approved by a majority of the voters on May 16th, this proposed budget will continue to provide high quality educational and extracurricular experiences for the community’s children. If the vote does not achieve a majority of 60% or more, the Board has the options by law to submit a reduced budget or the same budget for a second vote.
The failure of a second budget vote to pass will result in a contingency budget which will drive a 0.18 % budget decrease and a 0% tax levy increase. In order to operate within the limits of the New York State tax levy cap or a contingency budget, staff reductions will be required, along with reductions in programs, and/or services.
All qualified, registered voters are encouraged to exercise their right and responsibility to participate in the school budget vote and Board of Education member election, which will be held in the Bulkeley Middle School cafeteria from 2:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16th. Please feel free to contact your School Board members or District administrators with any questions you might have. The Board of Education and District leaders thank you for your interest in, and your ongoing support of, the Rhinebeck schools.
Mark Fleischhauer 876-5311 [email protected]
Deirdre d’Albertis, Vice-President 876-0411 [email protected]
Deirdre Burns, Trustee 876-0376 [email protected]
Diane Lyons, Trustee 266-8861 [email protected]
Laura Schulkind, Trustee 876-8253 [email protected]
Lisa Rosenthal, Trustee 876-1086 [email protected]
Stephen Jenkins, Trustee 876-0758 [email protected]