New York's school board and budget votes are fast approaching — by mail, because of the pandemic. The Albany City School District joins other districts in making accomodations.
This year, by executive order, schools across the state are doing a "mail-in" budget. Albany voters will decide on a $261.6 million dollar budget proposal the district says would minimize the local tax impact with no loss of programs or services.
The ballots are in the mail right now. Voters are also being asked to consider Proposition #2, which would allow the district to purchase what is described as "a small piece of property with no additional impact on taxes." One seat on the Board of Education also is up for election.
Albany School Board President Anne Savage:
"Well the budget as always is all of the things we need to do to support our kids, as everything from teachers to contracts that we have to do various business work, and sometimes work that's directly pertinent to kids, and, really every single thing that a kid needs including transportation. It also includes our commitments to our students who live in Albany, but are not directly attending our public schools including the students who attend charter schools and those that have special education placements that are outside of the district. All of those costs are included in our general fund budget."
If the budget is voted down, Savage says the Board can either put up a revised budget and have that voted on, or go directly to a contingency budget.
"If we were to go to a second budget, it would cost the district around $150,000 to do the vote again. That's a lot more than normal, because normally we do not have to mail 47,000 ballots, which is what we are mailing. We mailed every single registered voter. So it's a lot more expensive this year. So the board would have to weigh that cost against the potential for us to be able to have a vote, a budget, adopted. It's an important distinction because if the budget is not adopted, if we go to what's called a contingency budget, a number of things happen. For example, we definitely would have to integrate $2.3 million dollars of reduction into what the services are that we're able to provide for our students that's $2.3 million above the reductions we've already made, which were very difficult and painful. Another thing that happens is that we can no longer make our buildings available to community groups at low cost or no cost as we do routinely."
The education dymanic in New York state has been upended by COVID-19. The school year ended much earlier than planned. Summer school is off. And there's a possibility of a cut in state aid of up to 20 percent. Savage says that hasn't happened...yet.
"Right now our budget assumes we will get the state aid that was committed to in the April first adopted state budget. That is less than we thought it was going to be, because in January the budget that the governor released, his executive budget had more state aid for school districts in it. So we've already integrated those reductions that we're aware of, but we have not yet integrated any further reductions that might come."
Savage says there's a chance federal funding could restore some of the losses.
Albany Schools Superintendent Kaweeda Adams says the "fall is going to look very different" after significant cuts.
"This year with some of the staffing reductions, we have to look at different models of delivery and we have tried to keep those reductions in alignment with the enrollment being reduced as well. And so our staffing reductions represent about 8 percent of the district's total workforce. And while it is a challenge, we are looking at how to structure our programs and schedule our classes and blend and combine some of the services that our students would need to be successful."
Ballots are due back by June 9th. Postmarks do not count in this particular election.
You can view the full 2020-21 adopted budget HERE.