2016-17 School Budget

Budget: $63,905,956 (1342 yes vote  to 424 no votes)
Tax Rate Increase: 0.65%
Tax Levy Increase: 1.32%
Budget-to-Budget Increase: 1.87%

2016-17 Budget news and web posting archives

BH-BL 2016-17 budget passes

On Tuesday, May 17BH-BL residents approved the 2016-17 school budget by a vote of 1342 to 424 with a margin of 76 percent. Residents also elected Patrick Ziegler and incumbent Jennifer Longtin to serve on the board of education for the next three years. The results are as follows: Jennifer Longtin with 891 votes, John Kelch with 533 votes, Patrick Ziegler with 942 votes, and Lee-Ann Mertzlufft with 830 votes. Thank you for voting!

Board hosted 2016-17 Budget Forum

The board hosted its second Budget Forum on Tuesday, April 12 where school leaders outlined the nearly complete proposal for 2016-17 that carries a tax levy increase of 1.32%, which is below its maximum allowable ‘tax cap,’ and results in an estimated 0.65% tax rate increase. The proposed budget is expected to be adopted at the April 19 board meeting, and put to public vote on Tuesday, May 17. A detailed budget newsletter will be mailed to residents in early May. Don’t forget to vote.

2016-17 state budget includes $1.5 billion education funding increase, end to GEA

On Friday, April 1, New York lawmakers approved a 2016-17 state budget that includes an overall $1.5 billion – or 6.5 percent – increase in education funding. The state budget ends the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which has diverted billions of dollars from schools during the last seven years. [FULL STORY]

BH-BL Board considers Veterans Tax Exemption for 2017-18 school year

At its Feb. 9 meeting, the BH-BL Board of Education continued its thoughtful conversation about the possibility of offering local veterans a partial property tax exemption similar to what municipalities already offer through …[MORE]

Capital Region school districts face uncertainty over Gap funds

For BH-BL, Gov.’s proposal withholds $600K in state aid through GEA, results in flat foundation aid

BH-BL Superintendent Patrick McGrath spoke to Gazette reporters about what the Governor’s education budget proposal means for BH-BL–the state will continue to withhold more than $600K in state aid through the GEA and foundation aid will be flat. Tough decisions lay ahead for district leaders if the GEA is not restored. In the meantime, we encourage residents to reach out to local legislators to ask for the elimination of the GEA now–not over a two-year period.

Board approves 2016-17 Budget Development Calendar

At its Dec. 8 meeting, the Board of Education approved the 2016-17 Budget Calendar that includes important public dates, outlines the board’s objectives and highlights the context for developing a budget for next school year. Please keep a copy of the calendar so you don’t miss any important dates, such as the April 18 deadline for submitting board candidacy applications.

Budget Information (newsletter)

On May 17, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District residents will go to the polls to vote on a proposed $63.9 million budget for the 2016-17 school year. The plan carries a 1.32 percent tax levy increase, which is below the maximum allowable levy limit and results in an estimated 0.65 percent tax rate increase.

The Board of Education unanimously approved a proposal that restores some key teacher-leadership positions and includes a new cost-neutral early college program (see page 2). The budget also addresses programming for students with special needs, includes funding for additional learning materials to support computer science instruction, and allows for new opportunities for teacher-led professional development. Overall spending in the proposed budget would increase by 1.87 percent, or $1.18 million.

“Our goal while developing this budget was to find a way to uphold our commitment and responsibility to our taxpayers, yet also adhere to our promise to deliver a high-quality education that offers engaging and dynamic experiences and opportunities to all of our students as outlined in our 21st-Century Framework for Learning guiding principles,” says Superintendent Patrick McGrath. What’s included in the budget The proposed budget preserves all current academic programs, as well as class sizes in grades K-5. The complete elimination of the GEA (Gap Elimination Adjustment) provides a financial boost that allows the district to restore some positions that were eliminated during the economic downturn when state aid was being withheld from schools. At the middle school, two curriculum representative positions, one for ELA and one for math, are being restored. These teacher leaders are tapped to provide additional guidance and support to classroom teachers in the areas of their expertise. Additionally, a part-time professional development position at the high school will be added. Through this position, a portion of a teacher’s assignment will be dedicated to training colleagues on how to leverage technology instruction and internet connectivity to provide a variety of course delivery options for students (see “Blended learning delivers technology integration to the classroom” on page 2). Also included in the proposal is a plan to expand the middle and elementary summer school programs and add a summer writing program for elementary school students who could benefit from additional instruction to strengthen their writing skills. Cost saving The proposal also results in modest savings by replacing a full-time director position in the Human Resources Department with a BOCES shared-services position. Another area of savings in the proposed budget is within employee benefits. The estimated required employer contribution rates to the state retirement systems (teacher and support staff) has decreased for a savings of approximately $500,000.

BH-BL+1 opens college doors for students in high school

For many years, BH-BL High School students have had the opportunity to earn several college credits through the school’s Advanced Placement (AP) or University in High School (UHS) courses. The convenience of entering college with a few courses already completed has made this an attractive and popular offering among students. In fact, the number of college credit courses offered at BH-BL grows nearly every year. For these reasons and more, school leaders developed BH-BL+1 which is a more formal and robust early college program.

Through BH-BL+1, high school students can be dually enrolled at BH-BL and Schenectady County Community College where they can earn a full year of SUNY credits by the time they graduate from high school.

Next year, BH-BL students can “major” in Business Administration, Liberal Arts: Humanities & Social Sciences, or Mathematics & Science where they will be enrolled in courses that meet their high school requirements and earn college credits.

“Course credits through the BH-BL+1 program are all brought together on one SUNY transcript, so a student can graduate from high school with college credits that are portable across the SUNY system and at many private four-year colleges,” explains High School Principal Tim Brunson.

In addition to getting a leg up on college credits, dual enrollment can also help students become accustomed to the rigors of college life while completing high school and preparing to live on a college campus. Recent studies show that students who participate in dual enrollment programs while in high school are more likely to complete college and even attend graduate school after earning a bachelor’s degree.

“Dual enrollment is becoming increasingly popular nationwide,” says Brunson. “Many college professors have said it helps students become better prepared for college. It also expands their knowledge, sharpens their skills, and encourages them to discover their passions and interests.” High school students who want to learn more about BH-BL+1 and how to enroll should talk to their guidance counselor.

Blended learning delivers technology integration to the classroom

Blended learning classes, also known in the education world as mixed-mode or hybrid courses, provide students with a combination of face-to-face and online instruction through a variety of 21st-century methods, such as flipped videos, Podcasts, Screencasts, online reference materials, and learning management tools (i.e., Blackboard, Google Classroom, etc.).

This technology-rich learning approach in the classroom delivers information to teachers and students that they might not typically have access to otherwise. By using a mix of digital instruction and traditional teacher-to-student instructional practices, students can often work on their own with new concepts which allows teachers more time to circulate throughout the classroom and support individual students who may need personalized attention.

“Blended learning courses allow students and faculty to take advantage of much of the flexibility and convenience of an online course while retaining the benefits of the face-to-face classroom experience,” says Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Maryellen Symer.

BH-BL currently incorporates defined blended learning practices in Global History & Geography I, AP United States History, Economics, AP Macroeconomics, AP Computer Science Principles, and Science Research, although many teachers have already begun introducing a variety of blended learning techniques into their daily lessons.

The proposed budget calls for the addition of a part-time professional development position that will allow for a portion of a teacher’s assignment to be dedicated to training colleagues on how to boost their use of available technology and internet-based programs to deliver more variety in their classroom lessons. District leaders are planning to offer more blended learning opportunities in the future.

Is the district purchasing buses for next school year?

Yes, but there will not be a separate proposition for the purchase of school buses since the district does not need to borrow funds to buy them this year. Instead, the proposed budget includes $800,000 for the planned purchase of five 66-passenger buses, one mid-sized wheelchair-accessible bus and two minivans to replace some of the district’s oldest buses and vehicles.

The district is also slated to be reimbursed approximately 66 percent of the cost of the buses through state transportation aid in subsequent years, resulting in a net local cost of approximately $272,000.

“We are pleased that we can purchase several new school buses without the need to accrue debt,” says Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Christopher Abdoo. “By doing this, we also are able to avoid expenses related to issuing debt and avoid finance charges.”

Cost saving

BH-BL’s 68-bus fleet travels more than 700,000 miles a year, transporting more than 3,100 students to and from its five schools. The buses are also used for sporting events, out-of-district runs, shared transportation runs, field trips, summer school and other events.

n order to keep buses in safe working order, the district’s longstanding policy has been to replace a few of the oldest buses each year. Over the past several years, however, the replacement plan was modified and fewer new buses were purchased during the economic downturn.

“In recent years, we deviated from our bus replacement plan in an effort to maintain academic programming during difficult budget times,” explains Abdoo. “This was a viable option for a few years because we had a relatively robust fleet of buses. At this juncture, however, some of our oldest buses are now in jeopardy of not passing state inspections without investing in costly repairs.”

According to state law, if a bus doesn’t pass inspection it has to be taken off the road until repairs are made. If this happens, the district will have fewer buses to use for trips outside of the daily school runs, such as athletic team transportation, field trips, etc.

Bus replacements

The buses and other transportation vehicles slated to be replaced in the 2016-17 school year are among the oldest in the district’s fleet and have already accumulated high mileage, exceeded their warranties, and undergone many maintenance repairs. Beyond certain limits, buses typically become too costly to maintain given the state’s stringent inspection codes.

Additionally, new school buses are aligned with the latest safety and emissions standards and have better fuel economy rates.

The district’s retired buses are expected to be traded in to further reduce the purchase price of the new buses.

What happens if the budget is defeated? Does the tax “cap” law impact a contingent budget?

If the proposed budget were defeated, state law gives the board two options:

* resubmit the same or revised proposal for a revote or

* move directly to a contingent budget. If voters defeat the proposal a second time, however, the board must adopt a contingent budget.

Rules more severe now Under New York’s tax levy “cap” law, districts that adopt a contingent budget cannot increase the current tax levy by any amount—resulting in a zero percent tax levy increase.

Bringing the BH-BL tax levy increase down to zero would force the board to reduce the proposed budget by $498,280. In doing this, the board may not be able to adhere to its goal of preserving student programs and services or staff. It would likely have to make a number of staff reductions across all schools, which would increase class sizes.

Adopting a contingent budget prohibits a district from spending any money in certain areas, including community use of school facilities (unless all costs are reimbursed to the district); new equipment purchases; nonessential maintenance; capital expenditures (except in emergencies); salary increases for non-instructional and non-unionized employees; and certain field trips and student supplies.

Also under contingency rules, the administrative component of the budget would be subject to certain restrictions. These requirements existed prior to the tax levy cap and remain in effect.

Are there any exemptions available to help taxpayers?

Yes. Homeowners can receive property tax exemptions under the School Tax Relief (STAR) program. Under state law, STAR exemptions can now grow by only 2 percent per year.

The Basic STAR exemption is available on a homeowner’s primary residence for anyone who owns and lives in his/her own home and earns less than $500,000 a year.

The Enhanced STAR exemption is available on the primary residence of taxpayers age 65 and older with yearly incomes below $84,550.

Two more tax relief options

BH-BL residents over the age of 65 with incomes of $37,400 or less also can be exempted from paying school taxes on 5 to 50 percent of their home’s assessed value depending on their exact income. Additionally, the district grants a disability exemption, also ranging from 5 to 50 percent, for qualifying residents of any age with disabilities and incomes of less than $37,400.

Applications for either of these district exemptions and for state STAR exemptions must be filed with your town assessor’s office by March 1. Call your town assessor or visit your town website if you have questions about STAR or other exemptions.

How will the proposed budget impact taxes? What will the state’s tax rebate mean for taxpayers?

The 2016-17 proposed budget of $63,905,956 is 1.87 percent higher than the current year’s budget. Given the state aid BH-BL will receive and other revenue sources, the overall property tax levy will increase 1.32 percent in order to balance the proposed budget.

Equalization rates

Calculating tax rate increases is complicated by the fact that the BHBL district is made up of parts of four towns—Glenville, Burnt Hills, Ballston Lake and Clifton Park. Each year, tax rate increases vary from town to town due to equalization rates that the New York State Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) announces in August.

As the name implies, equalization rates are intended to spread the tax burden across the four towns as fairly as possible. The rates attempt to “equalize” or compensate for differing assessment practices, for the fact that one town’s assessments may be more recent than the other towns’, and for the fact that property values don’t change equally in all towns within the school district. For instance, if ORPS determines that property values have risen more in one town than another in the past year, the tax increase in that town may be somewhat higher than the estimated 0.65 percent average, while the rate in another town may be lower than the average.

Equalization rates are typically not shared with school districts until August. Equalization rate differences tend to even out over several years, but they make it impossible to predict actual tax rate increases in each town. The school district plays no role in determining what portion of the tax burden is placed on any one town or any one property owner.

The state ORPS office sets equalization rates that determine the portion of the total tax levy paid by each town, and the assessor in each town calculates individual assessments that determine how much is paid by each property owner.

State’s property tax rebate

In order for residents to qualify for the state’s property tax rebate initiative, which is in its third year, two qualifications need to be met:

1. A resident needs to be receiving the STAR exemption and

2. the school district must keep its proposed tax levy increase below its maximum allowable tax levy limit.

BH-BL’s proposed tax levy limit is 1.32 percent, which is below the district’s maximum allowable tax levy limit of 1.45 percent. Details as to when qualifying taxpayers will be reimbursed should be forthcoming from the state. Residents may also visit the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance website at www.tax.ny.gov for updates and more information.