No cuts to programs, staff in Sewanhaka’s $198.6M budget adopted by the school board

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Superintendent Ralph Ferrie earlier this year.  (Photo by Samuel Glasser)

By Samuel Glasser

The Sewanhaka Central High School District’s final budget for the upcoming school year has “good news from the state”, Superintendent Ralph Ferrie said during a meeting Wednesday when the Board of Education approved the budget for the 2018-2019 year, but is otherwise essentially unchanged from the preliminary budget presented in February.

State aid is slated to increase by $3.2 million, or 8.5 percent to $41 million, compared to $37.8 million in aid allocated for the current school year. It’s a $613,000 increase from the original state aid estimate.

Ferrie said that there will be no cuts to programs or staff.

Enrollment for the coming school year is projected at 8,405 students, down by 87 from the current student body.

The new budget is $198.6 million, an increase of $5.5 million or 2.9 percent from the current year. The tax levy is $144.3 million, an increase of 1.09 percent. Tax collections will account for 72.9 percent of the new budget and state aid will be 20.4 percent of the budget; the remainder is made up of payments in lieu of taxes and other sources.

On the expenditure side, contributions to the state teacher retirement system are projected to increase by 8.5 percent, contributions to the employee retirement system will be unchanged and the cost of employee health insurance increased 8.6 percent as of January.

Kevin O’Brien, deputy superintendent for finance and operations said the district has “very little debt.”

His presentation showed that debt service, which includes payments on the 2014 bond issue to finance the district-wide capital improvement program, is 4.3 percent of the budget or $8.5 million.

The final phase of construction under the bond referendum was completed earlier in the school year as was the energy performance upgrades to each of the five high schools.

The district will continue to maintain and upgrade its facilities.

The district has budgeted nearly $500,000 for capital projects in the coming year including a new proprietary lock system, swipe-in locks at strategic door entrances at each school and upgraded security including a “buzz-in” system at each school with a visitor management system.

Ferrie noted that the district safety committee will meet in the near future and will include community representatives with expertise in law enforcement and safety.

Last month, the administration conducted a day-long appraisal regarding school safety and will report the findings to the board in April, he said.

The district is also working with the state to procure $200,000 to renovate the science labs at H. Frank Carey High School. Ferrie noted that the district is developing student laboratory manuals in-house so students do not have to purchase them.

Ferrie also said that when school opens in September the phase-in of iPads will be complete and all students in grades seven to 12 will have one.

The budget vote is on May 15.

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