New Paltz School District Budget to be Voted on in May

A supermajority vote will be in order if the New Paltz Central School District (NPCSD) wants to get its 2016-17 budget proposal approved.

The NPCSD is facing an unusually steep climb for its 2016-17 budget proposal, which includes a 3.4 percent increase, totaling $1,890,000. The budget does not include a tax levy increase but instead has a negative tax levy of 1.07 percent. NPCSD, drawing additional funds from Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) funds and the Less Fund Balance being available. Final budget presentations will be held at New Paltz High School on April 6 at 7 p.m.

As listed on the website for the  Board of Education (BOE), the proposed budget for the 2016-17 academic year includes nearly $500,000 funding increase for the special education department.

BOE President Brian Cournoyer commented on the challenges ahead of the board, both in the initial budget proposal but also in the bus replacement proposal.

“The school district community has historically been very supportive of our budgets,” Cournoyer said. “Many past budgets have passed with greater than 60 percent approval, but we would never want to take the support of the voters for granted. The state property tax cap has made the budget process increasingly difficult to navigate, and this year we find ourselves in the rather absurd position of having a levy limit that is actually negative, requiring a supermajority vote just to pass budget with a zero percent increase.”

There are two positions up for election on the BOE, though Cournoyer stated that he didn’t believe the upcoming vote would have a large effect on the vote. Cournoyer further added that voters have been supportive replacing buses in the past as a measure of “good financial planning.”

“We believe the GEA funds will be restored,” Cournoyer said. “Governor Cuomo has already stated that he wants to phase out the GEA over two years. The legislature has been vocally in favor of restoring the full amount this year and it seems probable that the governor will agree.”

Cournoyer said the most frequently raised concerns brought to the BOE are in regards to maintaining the quality of educational programs and keeping class sizes down. It is a balancing act between the expectations brought on by the parents and retaining teachers in years of tenuous funding from the state.

“One of our goals is to try to replenish the district’s fund balance, which has been depleted over the last several years as the [BOE] tried to maintain programs and teachers in the face of withheld state aid,” Cournoyer said. “We still hope that the state’s fiscal attitude will change in the near future, and we may be able to restore some of the programs that have had to be cut in recent years, but it doesn’t seem likely this year.”

Cournoyer said there is a public forum on the budget every year to try to encourage the community to get involved.

“I would say that serving on the [BOE] is a lot less intimidating than it seems, and that it’s not a terribly political job,” Cournoyer said. “The people in the other local government bodies that we interact with are good, cooperative people, who are just trying to do the best job they can. If that sounds good to anyone, they should do it.”

The budget vote will be held on May 17 at the high school.