Additional funds will allow the district to add several needed positions

VICTOR — A surprise boost in state aid for the Victor Central School District will allow it to add a number of needed positions, particularly in special education.

“The final state budget came out on March 30,” Joe Dougherty, school business administrator, told the Board of Education Tuesday. “Victor got some outstanding news that day. We will receive $428,403 higher than we initially projected from the governor's budget in January."

Just before passing its $168 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that began April 1, lawmakers added an additional $226 million for education aid, bringing the 2018-19 total to $26.7 billion — a 3.9 percent, or $995 million, increase over the 2017-18 total of $25.7 billion.

With the increased state aid, Victor's proposed budget total now stands at $69.2 million, up from $68.8 million when the board last reviewed it on March 15, but the projected tax levy and tax rates will not be affected.

Dougherty reminded board members they looked at two different proposals last month for adding positions and programs, noting they agreed to the first phase and set aside the second, which he said he was happy to say the district could now accommodate.

He said Victor's total state aid is increasing from $20.8 million in 2017-18 to $21.4 million for 2018-19, but the tax levy and tax rate, as proposed last month, will remain at $43.8 million and $16.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, respectively.

He said the tax levy of $43.8 million — an increase of $1.9 million — meets the tax cap limit of 4.45 percent, as factored for the district using a state formula, and that the tax rate went up less than 1 percent — or 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

With the additional money, the district is now asking for aother half-time special education teacher which, when added to the other half-time post discussed in March, equals one full-time position.

Other new posts requested include a K-6 English language arts teacher coach and senior high teacher, each at $70,303; four teacher aides, one for each school but the junior high school, for a total of $130,980; expanding an adapted physical education teacher position from .2 to .4, $10,000; increasing a senior high clerk typist position from 10 months to 12 months, $2,600; and adding two cleaners, $87,566.

Another $15,000 was included to add to the music and art district equipment fund.

Dougherty said the total for the new positions and programs comes to $421,904, or $6,499 less than the increase in state aid. He said he put the difference into the 2018 health services supply line to put toward funding a new state mandate that will require free feminine hygiene products be made available in vending machines in each female restroom for students in grades 6-12.

“We don't know much more than that, but that is certainly a cost to the district,” Dougherty said, noting a quick price check came up with an estimate of about $200 to $300 per machine for approximately 30 bathrooms in the intermediate, junior and senior high schools.

He is still waiting for guidance from the state, but said that would be $6,000 to $9,000 for equipment alone.

District superintendent Dawn Santiago-Marullo said the district's medical director estimated the unfunded mandate at about $2 million statewide because it will impact every district.

She said years ago, there were machines in the girls' restrooms, but unfortunately, they kept breaking down or kids would mess with them, so the district did away with them and had products available for girls in the nurse's office.

Board member Mike Young asked about the district's staffing for K-12 special education.

Jim Haugh, director of human resources, said the budget proposal calls for adding a total of 3.5 new positions, in addition to the 36 or 37 existing full-time positions. He said he anticipates adding eight special education teacher aides for next year to meet increasing requests.

Santiago-Marullo said a couple of years ago, the district got surprised with ELA needs and moved that to the top of its "wants" list. She said this year, it's special education because of what the district is experiencing in enrollment.

“We're challenged by the fact that these are sometimes very unpredictable,” she said. “You saw that this year, in particular, we had some very high-needs cases come in.”

Young pointed out Victor is doing more with less money than other area schools that have fewer students.

“If you compare apples to apples, we do a lot with a lot less,” he said. “We've never been able to right-size our budget, so kudos to everybody that's here. Our kids still have have a fantastic education. They still have a fantastic experience here.”

The board, with two members absent, unanimously approved the revised budget, which will go before district voters May 15 when voters statewide will go to the polls to approve or reject their districts' proposed spending plans.