Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, N.Y.

CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Thanks to additional state aid, the Shenendehowa School District will be able to continue all its programming, maintain staff levels, and complete necessary maintenance projects next year and still hold the property tax increase to two percent.

The additional educational aid to all state schools was part of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which he signed into law last month. Shen’s share of the funding is $3 million.

Thanks to the extra foundation aid Shen’s 2021-2022 budget will be $187.16 million, an increase in spending from last year of 3.03 percent or $5.5 million.

Just one month ago the preliminary budget proposal had a spending increase of 1.89 percent for next year. The difference is due to Shen receiving the added foundation aid. Those funds allowed the district to reduce the tax levy to stay at the two percent tax cap maximum and yet add some one-time spending to address needs for the coming year.

The tax levy is the amount of money due to the school district from taxpayers. Next year the district expects to collect $130.9 million with the tax levy, an increase of $2.6 million from last year.

In the 2020-2021 budget the maximum tax cap increase allowed the district was 3.04 percent yet the district’s budget calculations used a factor of just 2.6 percent for its tax levy increase that year.

In the coming year, taxpayers are expected to see the benefit of the tax cap reduction on their school tax bills in September. The estimated true value tax rate is expected to decrease an estimated .5 percent per $1,000 assessed value.

Figures provided by the school district show that a property with an estimated market value of $250,000 would see a decrease of approximately $23 in its school property tax bill in the coming year.

The additional $3 million in state aid lets Shen officials put certain one-time expense items back into what had been an extremely tight budget without breaking the tax cap maximum.  

The proposed budget was unanimously adopted by the Board of Education at its March 13 meeting.

Shen is using nearly $1 million of the added state aid to keep the tax cap at two percent and avoiding having to either seek an override or start making cuts in programs and/or staffing.

It will use $500,000 of the additional aid to increase the capacity for instructional salaries and professional development to address uncertainties surrounding the full reopening of school in September, $400,000 to increase new textbooks and technology tools, increase the allocation for instructional technology purchases by $160,000, and increase capacity for maintenance projects and allocations for equipment by $500,000 each.

In discussing the one-time shot in the financial arm, Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson made clear he did not want to use the aid for recurring items out of concern that when the aid is gone the demand will be strong that the added items (staff or programs) be continued. Such an action, he said, would put future budgets at risk.

“Putting a budget together is not a single-year process,” Robinson said. “We want to be sure that in multiple years and ensuring years we can have a consistent outcome year after year after year.”

That consistent outcome is something Robinson said is being sought because the budget is driven by the district’s mission to provide the best opportunity for a quality education to all students. Similar outcomes are sought because the driving force behind the budget remains the same year after year.

“The 3.03 percent budget increase is not a significant departure but it is indicative of a very deliberate approach to ensure we are positioning the school district for continued prosperity,” he said. “We want to be in a situation where we have, as a system, tremendous confidence that in coming years we’ll have good years for our students.”

Voters in the Shenendehowa School District can vote on the budget from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 18 in the Gowana Middle School gym.

On the ballot also will be proposals for school bus purchases, a $26.5 Capital Project Referendum, and the election of three candidates from a pool of nine to fill three seats on the Board of Education.

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