Voter-Approved 2018-19 Budget Details
- Budget: $68,082,518
- Estimated tax rate increase: 1.98%
- Tax levy increase: 2.90%
- Spending increase: 3.96% with 2.32% dedicated to the operating budget and 1.64% to debt service
On May 15, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District residents will go to the polls to vote on a proposed $68 million budget for the 2018-19 school year. The plan preserves all existing programs and small class sizes in grades K-8.
It also improves academic opportunities for students while remaining below the district’s tax levy cap. The proposal carries a 2.90 percent tax levy increase and an estimated 1.98 percent tax rate increase.
Voters will also elect candidates to fill two seats on the Board of Education.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15, in the gym at BH-BL High School, 88 Lakehill Road.
If approved, overall spending in the proposed budget will increase by $2.6 million, or 3.96 percent. Within that figure, 2.32 percent is dedicated to general operating costs and 1.64 percent is for debt service payments related to the voter-approved 2013 referendum. The debt service increase is almost entirely offset by state building aid and the district’s Debt Service Fund. The increase also adheres to the district’s long-range financial plan that was supported when voters approved the referendum in 2013.
“We were faced with several challenges and hurdles when planning the 2018-19 budget,” explains Superintendent Patrick McGrath. “Through the cooperation and innovation of our faculty, staff, and administration we have worked through these difficulties. We feel confident that we have developed a budget plan that reflects our commitment to high- quality academic programming and individualized student support in a fiscally responsible manner.”
What’s New in the Budget?
Early Enrichment Services
The proposed budget includes an increase in PACE teaching hours to support the expansion of the enrichment curriculum at the elementary level. PACE lessons compliment the district’s academic program by enriching students’
experiences at an early age while also reinforcing such 21st-century skills
as critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, and collaborating with peers. These are skills students
will need to be successful later in their educational careers and in the
Expanded Distance Learning Offerings
Next year’s budget would also broaden the district’s distance learning opportunities by continuing to participate in the BOCES Distance Learning Network. Through the network, BH-BL will be able to broadcast nearly a dozen electives, including college algebra, computer science, business law, world language, and family & consumer science courses to other school districts. Assistant Superintendent Maryellen Symer explains these new opportunities are possible because of the new rooms in the renovated high school library and a classroom in the new STEAM addition that are equipped with distance learning technology.
“The voter-approved referendum helped us bring our facilities and technology into the 21st-century,” Symer says. “In doing this, we’ve been able to continue to offer students a strong academic program with a wide variety of electives so they can explore their interests and broaden their experiences in preparation for life after high school.”
The Distance Learning Network is a shared service through BOCES. Therefore, the district receives reimbursement for teachers’ salaries and benefits when they are teaching on the network.
Districtwide Technology Initiative
The proposed spending plan supports the district’s long-term technology initiative by continuing to provide students in grades 3-12 with these devices to collaborate on class work, share homework and projects with teachers, work on group projects with peers from any location, and connect to classroom technology for a richer academic experience.
Safety & Security Enhancements
Within the past several years, there have been many changes to the schools’ physical safety and security measures, such as secure vestibules, entryway cameras, swipe card entry systems, door alarms, and exterior doors locked throughout the school days. Next year’s budget proposal includes enhancements to these measures, including additional digital surveillance cameras throughout the district and extending single-point of entry procedures at the elementary schools to include after-school and early evening hours.
Additional Counseling Services
The proposed budget also includes additional on-site counseling services for students through a no-cost partnership with Parsons Child & Family Services. “Having an on-site counselors will help us better serve students and their families who are in need and would benefit from assistance,” says Symer.
Retirements & Restructured Staff Assignments
Nearly all of these budget preservations, additions, and improvements can be made possible through savings realized by retirements and reallocation of staff due to enrollment changes. There is also a complete reorganization of central administration offices and the restructure of staff assignments included in the proposal. These changes resulted in a total savings of $825,000.
Health Insurance Changes
The district was able to save $436,000 in health insurance increases by negotiating greater employee contributions to one of the district’s plan options and by making changes to the way co-pays are reimbursed. These changes were done without compromising the quality of service offered to staff.
Planned Sale of Land
Another area of savings, or anticipated revenue, factored into the budget proposal is from the planned sale of district-owned land. A 29-acre plot on Jenkins Road was purchased by the district in the early 1970s when enrollment was on a steady incline (from 1950 to 1970) and the need for another elementary school was imminent. After enrollment peaked
then leveled in the early 1970s, it began to decline in the 1980s before leveling off at approximately 3,200. As such, the need for a new elementary school became unnecessary and the land has remained undeveloped for more than 40 years.
“When we take into consideration our enrollment has remained steady for more than 30 years and current enrollment projections show growth that can be absorbed within the district’s current footprint, it’s actually more fiscally prudent for the board to sell the land the district doesn’t need, isn’t expect to use in the future, and which could be used for single-family residential development,” says Board President Jennifer Longtin.
The sale of the land would also help increase the district’s tax base, meaning the tax levy (the total amount of taxes the district collects) would be spread over a larger number of residents. At the time the newsletter went to print, plans were in place to public list the land.
How will the proposed budget impact taxes?
The 2018-19 proposed budget of $68,082,518 is 3.96 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 2.90 percent in order to balance the proposed budget.
Calculating tax rate increases is complicated by the fact that the BH-BL district is made up of parts of four towns—Glenville, Charlton, Ballston Lake, and Clifton Park.
2018 Median Full-Market Value Per Town & Estimated Tax Increases
- Ballston: FMV of $220,708 for an estimated tax increase of $91
- Charlton: FMV of $223,714 for an estimated tax increase of $92
- Clifton Park: FMV of $178,880 for an estimated tax increase of $74
- Glenville: FMV of $186,848 for an estimated tax increase of $77
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 1.98 percent average for 2018-19, 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.
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.
2018 Estimated STAR Values
- Ballston Lake: $794
- Charlton: $795
- Clifton Park: $830
- Glenville: $630
The Enhanced STAR exemption is available on the primary residence of taxpayers age 65 and older with yearly incomes of $86,000 or less.
2018 Estimated Enhance STAR Values
- Ballston Lake: $1,591
- Charlton: $1,592
- Clifton Park: $1,664
- Glenville: $1,216
Other 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. The district also grants a disability exemption, ranging from 5 to 50 percent, for qualifying residents of any age with disabilities and incomes of less than $37,400.
Last year, the board adopted the Alternative Veterans’ Tax Exemption at level 1, which allows qualifying veterans to be exempted from paying school taxes on a portion of their home’s assessed value depending on their military service.
Applications for these district exemptions and for state STAR exemptions must be filed with your town assessor’s office. Visit your town’s website or call your town assessor if you have questions about these exemptions.
What happens if the proposed budget is defeated?
If the proposed budget is defeated, state law gives the Board of Education 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 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 $1,127,574. 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 new buses being purchased for next year?
Yes, but rather than borrow funds and incur debt the proposed 2018-19 budget includes $850,000 for the purchase of five 66-passenger buses, three 29-passenger buses, and three vans to replace some of the district’s oldest buses and transport vehicles.
The district is expected 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 $289,000. Additionally, by purchasing buses outright, the district saves an estimated $15,000 in interest and legal fees associated with borrowing funds.
Bus Replacement Plan
The buses scheduled to be replaced in the 2018-19 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 safety codes. Furthermore, new school buses are aligned with the latest safety and emissions standards and have better fuel economy rates.
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. In order to keep buses in safe working order, the district’s long-standing policy has been to replace several of the oldest buses each year.
Board of Education Candidates
There are two residents running unopposed in the upcoming election.
Learn more about them below and meet them and ask questions at the district’s Meet-the-Candidates Night on Wednesday, May 9 at 7 p.m. in the BH-BL High School Board Room.
David Versocki is seeking his first term on the board. Before becoming the Director of Technology at Capital Region BOCES, he was a school administrator and a high school math and computer teacher. Versocki is a 1986 graduate of BH-BL High School. He holds a BA from Hartwick College, a master’s from Union College, and earned his Administrative Certification from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. In the past, he was a co-chair of BH-BL’s 2013 Capital Project Committee, a member of the Galway Lake Sailing Club, and a coach for the Burnt Hills girls travel basketball, youth softball, and youth lacrosse teams. Versocki is a lifelong resident, and he and his wife, Amy, have a daughter who attends the high school. See his position statement* below.
“Our role as parents and community members is to provide our children with experiences that provide an opportunity to develop the skills to become lifelong learners. Lifelong learning is not solely about academic endeavors. I believe the other opportunities we offer in areas such as community service, clubs, arts and athletics are all a part of this development. These opportunities provide students a connection to the district and community through something they are passionate about.
As a lifelong resident of the BH-BL community, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing the excellence the school district provides as both a student and parent. My participation as a co-chair of the 2013 Capital Project Committee provided an opportunity to work closely with a committed group of educators, students and community members which produced many improvements to district facilities. These improvements are providing students some of those experiences mentioned earlier.
I have been a career educator, having the good fortune of serving as a high school mathematics and computer science teacher, a basketball coach of varying levels and a school district administrator (Director of Technology). My current position as Director of Technology at Capital Region BOCES has provided an opportunity to witness how shared services provide students opportunities they might not receive if their district does not have the resources to go it alone. One of the areas that I have been able to champion region-wide is distance learning. Students from the smallest to the largest rural, suburban and urban districts can benefit from these environments.
I believe that this collection of experiences provides a holistic view of the educational process. I am looking forward to sharing these experiences with the district as a member of the Board of Education.”
Lisa M. Morse
Lisa M. Morse is a 16-year resident who is seeking her first term on the board. She is a special education aide at Gordon Creek Elementary School in Ballston Spa and previously worked at the Glenville YMCA. She has an associate’s degree and a paralegal degree from Herkimer Community College. She was a member of BH-BL’s 2013 Capital Project Committee and a past member of the Scotia Rotary. Morse is currently a baptism ministry coordinator at the Church of Immaculate Conception, treasurer of the Field Hockey Booster Club (past president) and a certified USA Swim Official. She lives in Glenville with her husband and has a son attending the high school, a daughter attending Pashley, and three children who are BH-BL graduates. See Morse’s position statement* below.
“As a BH-BL resident for 16 years, I have watched my five children transition from the elementary school through high school graduation. Two of them graduated from college, St. John Fisher College and Clarkson University. Another is a freshman at Wagner College. My two youngest children are a sophomore and a 5th grader at Pashley Elementary School. My children have participated in athletics, theater, band, orchestra, and STEM. During this time, I met and became friends with so many of you. We have stood in the rain, waited for buses, and cried at graduations. During my time at the YMCA, I had the opportunity to converse with seniors and members of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. I’ve had the opportunity to talk…and talk with so many about the successes and concerns of the district.
As an integral part of the community, I’ve always felt inspired to not only listen to my friends and neighbors, but to take action as well. This is why volunteerism has been an important part of my time at BH-BL. I’ve been on field trips, helped with 5th grade moving up days, attended rec nights, helped with middle and high school plays, was a field hockey Booster Club President for seven years, and helped officiate swim meets. Most notably, I was a member of the 2013 Capital Project Committee. This committee met from February until June 2013, each week at every school. The committee was tasked with prioritizing all presentations and requests with consideration to the tax impact, then submitting to the school board. I am a member of the current committee for the 2018 Bond Referendum. During the time spent on each of these committees I gained an awareness into how decisions are made, and I’ve gained valuable insight as to how these decisions impact our students and our community.
My adult life has been spent advocating for children, students in need of assistance, students who are differently abled, and students who aspire for an opportunity to further their education. In doing so I’ve hoped to create an atmosphere of congeniality for students, their parents, staff and administrators, and all members of the community. With personal and professional experience within our community and school atmosphere, I believe I will bring a unique perspective to the BH-BL Board of Education.”