Message from the Superintendent & Board President
On Tuesday, May 18, the Ken-Ton School District community will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed 2021-22 school year budget at the annual Budget Vote & Board of Education Election. Also on the ballot will be the annual bus purchase and candidates for the Board of Education. In-person voting will resume this year with the ability to request absentee ballots for qualified reasons. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 at Hoover Middle School (use the Sheridan Drive entrance).
The proposed $172,426,830 spending plan represents a budget-to-budget increase of only 1.98%, which is well below the historical average. The proposed tax levy increase of 1.97% is also well below the historical average and is among the lowest increases in approximately 20 years. The estimated tax bill increase on a $100,000 full-market-value property will only be $34.50 annually. Holding the line on spending and keeping the property tax levy below the tax cap was a major priority for the District, as we are always mindful of the impact on taxpayers.
This was a challenging year. We began the budget planning process with a gap of $3.9 million without any new or expanded programming. Just as a homeowner sees increased costs for many unavoidable expenditures such as utilities, telecommunications and insurance, the District also sees these yearly increases in countless costs that we have little to no control over. Although we were pleased to see a moderate gain in New York State Aid, it was not enough to offset the increases in all of those costs.
Despite years of underfunding by the state and federal government, the District consistently closes the budgetary gap with minimal impact on programming and taxpayers. Our finance team worked hard to identify areas of savings in order to achieve a balanced budget and ensure the long-term financial stability of the District. Budgetary decisions can have a detrimental impact on subsequent years’ budgets that compound over time, creating greater and greater fiscal strain and eventually necessitating significant reductions in programming. Budgeting must be sustainable, creating a stable environment and structuring our district to position us and our students for future success.
Thanks to several years of strategic investments and careful fiscal stewardship, our District remains in a strong financial position. This helped us meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in significant unexpected expenditures. For example, in order to ensure student learning in a remote setting, we secured a device for every student, fulfilling a multiyear objective in only a few months. Also, we acquired large quantities of personal protective equipment and other materials to minimize the risk of transmission and ensure the safety of students, families and staff as we reopened schools. We are optimistic about reports that school districts will soon see an influx of funding to cover some of those costs. However, districts are waiting for details such as additional amounts, potential offsets in state aid, timeline for disbursement, and other factors.
We remain in the midst of one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced as a school district community. It has been more than one year since the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted our schools. In the summer and fall, the community came together to carry out an endeavor that was both historic and massive in scope: reopening our schools and bringing students back to the classroom safely during a pandemic. The manner in which this was achieved is a credit to all in our community. We created, from scratch, an extremely effective instructional model that addressed the enormous difficulties of simultaneously educating students at home and in person. Our entire staff demonstrated extraordinary resourcefulness in meeting the needs of students and families. Administrators and teachers did an exceptional job modifying their teaching strategies and integrating a multitude of technological resources and applications. As a result, classroom instruction will be even more strategic and dynamic in the future.
We encourage all residents to learn about the budget and vote on May 18. The future is unpredictable, but we will be prepared and will continue the mindset that we can achieve anything together. Our focus as a school district has shifted to include not only the future academic success of our students, but also the learning loss created by this pandemic as well as the health and safety considerations it has posed. The proposed 2021-22 budget will help us meet these objectives and continue to position us for future success.