GCSD hopes to add services next year, stay under cap

GUILDERLAND — More support for sports, the arts, and students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms are just a few of the things that the Guilderland School District is considering adding to its 2017-18 budget.

The rollover budget that school officials have developed for the next year is $97,634,475, an increase of 1.08 percent over last year, said Neil Sanders, assistant superintendent for business.

The district is using the governor’s figures for school aid. Guilderland received $23,904,260 in state aid last year, and the governor’s plan allots $25,249,474 this year, an increase of 5.6 percent.

“It does look like we would be in a position to add” new services, said Sanders.

The district has posted on its website a survey about the budget, asking residents assess whether a number of different areas are “essential,” “very important,” “good to have, but not essential,” or “not important” to the district’s mission.

These areas include classroom technology, smaller class size, middle- and high-school student clubs, athletic programs, the arts, additional teachers of English as a new language, enrichment opportunities at elementary- and middle-school levels, support for students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms, and others. The website, guilderland schools.org, also contains background information about all of these areas.

The district is allowed to raise the tax levy 1.26 percent next year, based on calculations by the state’s comptroller. School districts can exceed that cap only with 60-percent voter approval or more.

Guilderland levy limit next year, said Sanders, will be 2.7 percent, or $71,424,211.  

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the district will hold a community conversation, from 6 to 7 p.m., in which parents, students, and other residents of the district are invited to voice their views on proposed budget items. Results of the online survey will also be announced at this meeting, which will be held in the large group instruction room at the high school.

Superintendent Marie Wiles will present a draft budget to the board of education and the community on March 7. Voters have their say on May 16.

Buses

The school district has a 10-year replacement plan for its buses. This year, it hopes to replace 10 of the 113 buses it currently owns, at a total cost of $991,500, said Danielle Poirier, transportation supervisor.

Poirier noted at the Jan. 31 school board meeting that her department is “still behind the eight ball as far as staying within the 10-year replacement plan.” The department now owns nine buses that are over 10 years old, with one of those being 14 and another 12 years old; it also has 11 buses that are each 10 years old.

The district’s fleet of 113 buses include large (66-passenger) buses, smaller ones, buses with wheelchair lifts and room inside for a wheelchair to roll in, minivans, and Chevrolet Suburban SUVs, Poirier said.

The 113 buses cover 71 routes, including all of the Guilderland schools. Of those 71 routes, 49 are in-district, Poirier said, and 22 are out-of-district — special-needs schools, private schools, and parochial schools. Buses also travel to an additional 15 day-care centers and 16 work programs.

The 10 vehicles that the district hopes to replace are seven large buses, two 30-passenger buses, and one 24-passenger bus with a lift and room for a wheelchair inside.

The cost breakdown is a total of $808,5000 for the seven large buses; $118,000 for the two 30-passenger buses, and $67,000 for the one 24-passenger bus. About half of the cost is covered by state aid.

Schoolbuses are inspected twice a year by the Department of Transportation, said Poirier, who added, “And every single thing on the schoolbus has to work. There can’t be any excessive corrosion, or they’ll fail it.”

Here in the Northeast, she said, her department’s “biggest nemesis,” in terms of corrosion, is road salt.

 

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