School vote is Tuesday

15 May 2017 | 03:45

By Richard Hanlon
Proposed school budget increases in Goshen and Chester, up for a vote on Tuesday, are modest, both falling below the state-mandated tax cap.
When school budget is defeated, the school board may decide submit a revised (or, more rarely, unrevised) budget for a second vote, or adopt an austerity budget. School districts whose budgets are voted down twice must by law go right to austerity.
Polls at each school — the Main Street Building, 227 Main St., Goshen, and the Chester Academy, 64 Hambletonian Ave., Chester — will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16.
GOSHENJust a few months after voters approved a major expansion at Goshen Central School, they'll be returning to the polls Tuesday to decide the district's proposed $69.7 million budget.
This time the spending increase will be modest, staying with the state-mandated tax cap. The proposed budget up for a vote reflects a spending increase of $1,954,925 or 2.88 percent. This will raise the tax levy increase by 2.89 percent, below the legal limit set by the state. Going over the limit would require the approval of 60 percent of voters, which is not necessary with this budget.
Even the $30.48 million improvement project that passed handily in February will have no affect on the tax levy, with a third of the cost coming from the district’s capital reserve fund and state aid, and the rest from a 15-year bond offset by state aid. However, voters will be asked in a separate proposition to allow the district to replenish the fund with end-of-year surpluses for four more years, finishing out the fund's 10-year term.
The fund was set up in 2011 as a repository for surplus money that would be used for building renovations. After $9 million from the fund was put toward the improvement project this year, the fund was left depleted. Any new construction project would still require a separate vote, even if covered by these reserve funds.
Spending increases in the proposed budget are the result of the usual drivers, including the rising cost of personnel contracts and health insurance. To better control coverage and premiums, the district has for several years past been part of the self-funded Orange-Ulster Health Plan. But the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which allows policy holders to keep their children on their plans up to age 26, is among the factors driving premiums up this year.
Another factor behind the increase is the $9.3 million the district must borrow for the new public library to be built at Salesian Park. The expenditure is temporary, since the library will eventually reimburse the school district when it sets up its own levy. But it must appear in the 2017-18 budget.
Also in a separate proposition, voters will also be asked to authorize the purchase of six school buses for $667,676, bonded over five years.
School board electionSchool board members Allison Salte and Thomas Mullane, whose terms expire on June 30, are running unopposed. They are up for re-election for three-year terms.
CHESTERIn Chester, the good news is the return to the tax rolls of Amscan, the party products manufacturer located in the industrial park, now that its PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) has expired.
Amscan's share of the 6.46 percent tax levy increase is 5.10 percent, bringing the share to be paid by the average homeowner in Chester down to 1.36 percent — at or below levels from four years ago.
The local tax levy will increase 1.94 percent.
There are challenges as well.
Chester also says it too is facing increased costs because of Affordable Care Act mandates, which are causing health costs to increase faster than the inflation levels that determine the tax cap. These costs are contributing to a 1.2 percent increase in the budget.
Special education costs are also increasing at what the district describes as an "unsustainable" rate. These cost increases represent budget growth of 1.11 percent. Chester hopes to return some of its out-placed special education students to the district.
Transportation costs are also going up. The district is looking to contract with a new provider, and is looking at ways to cut costs by making routes more efficient.
The total proposed budget for 2017-18 is $26,958,194, less than a half-million more than the current budget. Chester has pledged continued support of its STEM (science, technology, education, mathematics) programs, and plans to increase the number of students enrolled in them.
Chester also plans to partner with local businesses to give students a view into the real-world of work, through internships and job shadowing.
School board electionSchool board member Frank Sambets is running unopposed for one open seat, which has a three-year term.
On the webChester Union Free School District: chesterufsd.org
Goshen Central School District: gcsny.org