At their meeting on Tuesday, April 16, members of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Board of Education voted unanimously to put a budget of $59,016,106 for the 2013-14 school year before district residents at the upcoming annual school election on May 21.
This represents a budget-to-budget increase of 3.7 percent or $2.1 million over the current year's budget of $56,912,454. The proposed budget will cause a tax levy increase of 2.47 percent in September.
The tax levy is the total number of tax dollars needed. A tax levy increase of 2.47 percent is more than $397,000 below BH-BL's tax levy limit of 3.61 percent under state tax levy cap rules, according to assistant superintendent Chris Abdoo.
The highlight of the April 16 meeting for many parents was a separate board vote approving full-day kindergarten starting in September 2013.
Currently BH-BL is one of only a few school districts in the area still offering a half-day kindergarten program because it has lacked the space for full-day. Elementary enrollment has declined in a past few years, freeing up space and prompting a major investigation this winter as to the advisability and impact of making a change.
A task force of staff and parents recommended that full-day kindergarten would be a better program for students for a number of reasons that are spelled out in their report. In surveys done by the district, 70 percent of BH-BL residents agreed, and ultimately so did the Board of Education.
Specifically, the school board voted to adopt the task force's recommendations to them, recommendations that are listed on page 12 of their report. This means that full-day kindergarten will be offered to all students next fall, but that parents will be able to take advantage of a "transitional" option if they wish.
Parents selecting the transitional option will be able to have their child dismissed and transported home by a school bus at lunch time up until either October 15 or December 2.
District officials expect that a small number of parents will take advantage of the transitional option, resulting in minimal extra busing costs.
Expanding the kindergarten program from half-day to full-day is essentially "budget neutral" for at least the first four years, according to Abdoo's calculations. He anticipates that increased costs for more kindergarten teachers will be almost exactly offset by decreased busing costs, particularly fewer hours for bus drivers and fewer gallons of diesel fuel, since most the the district's existing 11 middle-of-the-day kindergarten bus runs will no longer be needed. See the task force's report for more details.