Learn more about school budget vote, May 17

Don’t forget to vote!

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the BH-BL High School gym, 88 Lakehill Road.

Budget at-a-Glance

  • Proposed Budget: $76,634,726
  • Estimated Tax Rate Increase: 1.82%
  • Tax Levy Increase: 2.50%
  • Budget-to-Budget Increase: 5.63% or 3.84% without transfer

[Print-Friendly 2022-23 Budget Newsletter]

2022-23 Budget proposal focused on sustaining, restoring and expanding programming for students

On Tuesday, May 17, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District residents will go to the polls to vote on a proposed $76,634,726 budget for the 2022-23 school year.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the gym at BH-BL High School, 88 Lakehill Rd. 

The proposal carries a 2.50 percent tax levy increase with an estimated 1.82 percent tax rate increase, which is below the tax cap for the 11th consecutive year. Voters will also be asked to elect two candidates to the Board of Education. (Click here to view information about each candidate.)

Overall spending in the proposed budget will increase by $4.09 million, or 5.63 percent. This increase, however, includes a $1.3 million construction project to repair and pave the visitor/student parking area at the high school. Without this transfer, the budget-to-budget increase would be approximately 3.84 percent. And, because the proposal also includes a transfer from the debt service fund of $1.3 million as a revenue item, this project has no impact on the tax levy or estimated tax rate.

Budget Development

This school year, district leaders have been dedicated to returning BH-BL programming to full, pre-pandemic strength.

“Our students and staff are back and our academic and extracurricular programs are fully operational,” says Superintendent Dr. Patrick McGrath. “It’s been a celebratory year as we regain our footing and welcome the participation, once again, in our drama productions, concerts, art exhibits, athletic events, student clubs and activities, enrichment activities, and so much more.”

Also this school year, the district used the one-time federal grant to fund services and staffing aimed at helping transition and acclimate students back to in-person instruction.

“All of the academic and social emotional support we offered this year has had a significant impact on our students,” says Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Collins. “Students have benefited from targeted academic support and increased social connections. Additional staff in classrooms and in supporting roles resulted in smaller class sizes, targeted assistance during lessons or class work, and increased availability for students who, at times, may have needed academic or emotional counseling.”

To allow the district to continue offering such services and support beyond the life of the federal grant, funding for these items is included in the proposed budget.

“Through a careful analysis of next year’s staffing and the district’s long-range financial plan, we were able to incorporate many of these student services into the general fund budget for the 2022-23 school year while shifting other, non-recurring items to the temporary federal grants,” explains Assistant Superintendent Dr. Christopher Abdoo.

What’s being proposed for next school year?

The Board of Education determined that the primary goal of the 2022-23 budget should be the continuation of the work undertaken this year—fully restoring, enhancing, and growing student programming. It was also a priority of the board to remain below the state-mandated tax levy cap.

The proposal includes plans to expand and enhance the district’s strong, innovative academic programming by: 

  • Implementing a new elementary-level math curriculum and continuing to align the K-12 science curriculum with the Next Generation Science standards;
  • expanding the high school’s college-credit earning program, BH-BL + 1, by partnering with additional colleges and universities to allow for a broader choice of courses and credits;
  • continuing the district’s existing Language & Culture program at the elementary schools and extending the Chinese language sequence at the high school;
  • broadening the high school’s distance learning offerings across eight different academic departments;
  • restoring and enhancing the elementary-level enrichment programs and in-school activities; and
  • expanding high school elective course opportunities through a technology-based partnership with the Scotia-Glenville School District.

The proposal also supports academic, extracurricular, and social-emotional program growth. This includes: 

  • Sustaining this year’s expansion program though additional counseling personnel and services (much of the associated cost will be offset by retirements);
  • expanding the K-8 Character Education/ SEL program to allow for additional time spent working with students on building character traits, strong interpersonal relationships, and healthy minds;
  • maintaining the current elementary-level reading, math, and special education positions that were added through the federal grant;
  • sustaining the K-8 targeted math and reading learning labs focused on delivering additional academic assistance to students in need;
  • expanding STRIVE (a special education program) at Pashley to match a growing need;
  • expanding athletic offerings by establishing a girls varsity golf team and adding a boys junior varsity golf team; and
  • adding a maintenance position to allow for more time to be dedicated to the care of athletic fields/school grounds.

Improving instructional leadership is another goal of the proposed budget. The additional positions will rely on existing staff and, therefore, are nearly cost neutral. The proposal includes: 

  • Adding a part-time Dean of Students at O’Rourke Middle School to assist with student referrals, support students’ needs, connect with parents/ guardians, etc.;
  • restoring the K-12 Science Department Head position (vacant for a year); and
  • adding a technology facilities educator to manage events in district facilities (i.e, auditoriums, Black Box Theater, TV studio, etc.) and develop student offerings in the areas of technology and media (i.e., broadcasting, theatrical technology/ audio, etc.).

“Our goal with this budget is not only to provide our full array of pre-pandemic programmatic offerings but to excel in our delivery of these opportunities to our students,” says McGrath. “We are committed to translating our residents’ investment in our school district into world class opportunities for the children of this community.”

What happens if voters do not approve the proposed budget?

Under New York State law, if the school budget is defeated, the BH-BL Board of Education typically has two options: put the same or a modified budget up for another vote on the third Tuesday in June, or immediately adopt a contingent budget. If residents defeat the proposed budget during a second vote, the board must adopt a contingent budget.

Contingent budget rules

Under New York State 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 $1,083,454. In doing this, the board may not be able to adhere to its goal of preserving student programs and services or staff, or restoring staffing from prior years. It would also likely have to make a number of staff reductions across all schools, which would increase class sizes.

Adopting a contingent budget also 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 including school buses; nonessential maintenance; capital expenditures (except in emergencies); salary increases for non-instructional and non-unionized employees; and certain field trips and student supplies.

These requirements existed prior to the tax levy cap and remain in effect.

Are new buses being purchased for next year?

Yes, but the cost of the new buses is included in the budget proposal rather than as a separate proposition. Bus purchases are done this way so the district doesn’t have to borrow funds and incur debt. The proposal includes $945,000 for the purchase of five 72-passenger buses, two 35-passenger bus, a 21-passenger wheelchair accessible bus, and two small transport vans to replace some of the district’s oldest buses.

The district anticipates being reimbursed approximately 71 percent of the cost of the buses through state transportation aid in subsequent years, resulting in a net local cost of approximately $274,050. 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 2022-23 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 69-bus fleet travels more than 750,000 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.

Are there any tax savings programs available to help taxpayers?

Homeowners can receive a property tax exemption or credit under the School Tax Relief (STAR) program.

The Basic STAR* exemption or credit is available on a homeowner’s primary residence for anyone who owns and lives in his/her own home. Homeowners who earn $500,000 or less can receive a STAR credit. Homeowners earning $250,000 or less can receive a STAR exemption or credit.

The Enhanced STAR exemption is available on the primary residence of taxpayers age 65 and older with yearly incomes of $92,000 or less.

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.

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 program must be filed with your town assessor’s office. Please visit your town’s website or call your town assessor if you have questions.

Understanding Tax Levy vs Tax Rate

In the proposed 2022-23 budget, the overall property tax levy will increase 2.50 percent, which results in an estimated 1.82 percent tax rate increase. To understand the impact on homeowners, see the infographic example below.

The tax levy is the total amount that a school district raises each year in taxes from all property owners. The tax rate is the amount of tax paid for each $1,000 of assessed value of property. In a growing district, the tax rate would be lower than the tax levy because the tax levy is spread out over a larger number of property owners.

Calculating tax rate increases is complicated by the fact that BH-BL is made up of parts of four towns. 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. 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 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. Please contact your town assessor’s office if you have questions about your property assessment or how they determine equalization rates.