Budget update: Plans for 2019-20 start taking shape

During various budget presentations to the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Board of Education (BOE), district officials have identified many programmatic and fiscal targets for the 2019-20 school year and beyond. At the April 2 BOE meeting, school leaders will outline a full draft budget for the next year.

The proposals in the budget are guided by the five-year academic plan laid out by Superintendent Brian Bailey, Ed.D earlier this year. That plan focuses on creating programs for RCS students that will better prepare them for the workplace and the world through the four “C”s: creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking. A community forum held this past February also focused on the four “C”s, giving district leaders more insight into the community’s expectations and ways the schools and community can work together to enhance each RCS student’s education. The five-year plan and community forum feedback allowed administrators to reevaluate education at each level here at RCS and begin working toward those five-year targets as part of the 2019-20 budget proposals.

The Governor’s budget proposal included a Foundation Aid increase of $164,510 for RCS (less than half of the 2018 aid increase, which was $368,117). Although New York State has set the district’s tax levy increase at 5.41 percent, district officials have preliminarily set the proposed tax levy increase for next year at a 2.75 percent. This means the district could propose a tax levy increase as high as that 5.41 percent, but anticipates keeping the increase to 2.75 percent in order to keep the communities tax increase as low as possible while still maintaining vital programs.

Administrators state that there will be minimal changes to existing staffing with a proposed increase of a part-time, .5, position in the business office and an increase of one position within technology support. To help close the gap to create a balanced budget, Business Manager Joanne Moran is proposing to use additional fund balance as well as to  look at reductions in expenditures that will have the least impact on academic programs.

Current high school potential budget and/or programmatic additions:

  • Ensure PSAT/SAT access for all RCS high school students
  • Professional development surrounding work-based learning (WBL), project-based learning (PBL), portfolios and capstone projects
  • Credit recovery programming
  • Furniture for flexible learning spaces
  • Create Makerspace, a place where students can explore interest, learn to use tools and develop creative projects
  • Increased access to technology through additional ChromeCarts
  • Collaborative work spaces for students with appropriate furniture and technology

Current middle school potential budget and/or programmatic additions:

  • Professional development and accompanying resources for programs such as Brain Breaks, Trauma Sensitive Schools, Makerspace and flexible spaces
  • Community connections through field trips and volunteerism
  • Furniture for flexible learning spaces
  • Student help desk for technology
  • Create Makerspace, a place where students can explore interest, learn to use tools, and develop creative projects
  • Increased access to technology through additional ChromeCarts

Current elementary school potential budget and/or programmatic additions:

  • Project-based learning (PBL) opportunities
  • Instructional specialist to be split between the two elementary schools
  • Furniture for flexible learning spaces
  • Increased access to technology through additional ChromeCarts
  • Science Technology Engineering Arts & Math (STEAM) and PBL focused academic field trips
  • Professional development around PBL

Smart Schools Bond Act

While not directly related to the budget, funds from the Smart Schools Bond Act have been approved for the district. The money will go directly to supporting our technology initiative and our four “C”s. The district applied for the funding two years ago and was recently approved.

The money will go toward:

  • Upgrading cameras and video storage capacity in the middle and high school.
  • Adding additional cameras and video storage capacity at the elementary schools.
  • Updating the wireless network infrastructure to increase wireless speed.
  • Creating more robust wireless access to support a future 1-to-1 device initiative and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).