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Scotia-Glenville budget reduces teacher aides, expands mental health services

The Daily Gazette - 4/10/2018

April 10--A budget adopted by the Scotia-Glenville school board Monday night calls for a tax levy increase of more than 3 percent and cuts four teacher assistant positions, while adding an outside mental health specialist to the high school.

The nearly $56 million spending plan lifts the tax levy by 3.36 percent -- the total amount collected in local taxes -- and relies on savings from a dozen retirements and an increase in spending from reserves to balance the budget.

While the district's budget shortfall appeared larger earlier in the budget process -- Superintendent Susan Swartz at one point proposed moving to half-day kindergarten in order to close the gap -- the outlook improved as health insurance costs came in lower than initially expected and final state aid numbers shook out.

But the district couldn't spare all cuts. The two teaching assistants and two teacher aides being eliminated from the payroll helped manage classes and worked with smaller groups of students.

The district was able to fund $35,000 to hire a mental health specialist from Saratoga Center for the Family, and that person will be stationed in the high school to provide enhanced mental health services, working with students and families and helping refer them to other services.

"This will be something for the kids our services we offer now cannot reach," district spokesman Bob Hanlon said of the new mental health specialist.

To close its budget gap the district is also digging deeper into its coffers than in previous years. The adopted budget pulls $3.45 million from the fund balance -- up $215,000 from the amount pulled the prior year. The budget was also helped by a handful of tax settlements that came in lower than expected. Those settlements allowed $400,000 to be shifted to the general fund from a reserve fund that is used to pay back contested taxes.

The district received one of the smallest increases -- at least among local school districts -- in state funding after the state finalized its budget: The school's "foundation aid" was increased by just over $250,000.

When district voters go to the polls May 15 to approve or reject the district's budget, they will also be asked to vote on a $14 million capital project, which would replace a high school roof and improve the district's athletic fields.

With debt from a 1999 capital project coming off the books in coming years, the district estimates the new project will cost $14 a year for a home assessed at $160,000. The largest share of the project, $3.47 million, will be dedicated to a partial roof replacement at the high school. More than $2 million would be used to add a synthetic turf field inside the high school track. Another $1.9 million would be used to level other fields and improve their irrigation systems.


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