WVSD administration talks budget, enrollment, capital projects
The new security measures to be implemented across district sites also discussed at work session


Photo illustration The Warwick Valley School Board will ask voters in May for their approval to buy five new school buses: three 65-passenger, propane-powered buses; one 29-passenger bus; and one 21-passenger wheelchair bus, at a maximum cost of $467,301.57. State transportation aid will pick up $263,558.09 of the expense.

By Abby Wolf
WARWICK — The Warwick Valley School District refined its numbers, revealed the results of a demographic study and provided details about upcoming construction projects in the most recent iteration of its proposed $92.8 million budget for the 2018-19 school year at a work session held Monday evening.
Schools Superintendent Dr. David Leach offered the BOE an overview of additional savings that had been made since the previous presentation, the results of a recent enrollment analysis and information concerning security upgrades in the schools.
Tim Holmes, Assistant Superintendent for Business for the district, provided additional numbers on final anticipated state aid, as well as the status of needed capital projects slated to occur both over the summer and in the longer-term throughout the district.
The projected budget would be an increase of just under $2.7 million – or 3.0 percent – over the current year’s $90,116,888.
This number includes more than $3.4 million in non-tax revenue, an increase of about $250,000 over the current year.
The school district anticipates some $26.3 million in state aid from Albany – an increase of nearly $700,000 over the current year.
Repair reserve soughtThe fund would be established to pay for non-recurring repairs for capital improvements and equipment throughout the district.
Leach said the district hopes to introduce the reserve as part of the revenue stream in its second year: funds could be shifted over from the Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve, aiding in covering fluctuations in revenues and expenses.
Costs savingsLeach reminded the board that health care costs represent one of the most significant parts of the budget. Therefore, the district is part of a health care consortium with other school districts that helps to contain some of those costs.
He added that both he and Holmes will investigate whether there is a long-term benefit to the district of staying within the consortium.
Leach also reminded the BOE that district employees’ collective bargaining agreements will be up for negotiation again next year.
Additionally, eight teachers will retire at the end of this year; three will not be replaced. The district will also eliminate one central administrative position.
The district found additional savings to the tune of $200,000 with the decrease of 20 CTEC students.
Security upgradesThe district will be placing school resource officers (SROs) – law enforcement personnel at its school buildings. “A significant expense,” Leach said, but “many districts agree that it’s money well-spent.”
He said that there are “talented” SROs at both the middle school and high school and that the administration is trying to figure out a rotating SRO at Park Avenue and Sanfordville Elementary Schools.
Responding to board member Bob Howe as to why the apparent need for sharing the officers, Leach said, “The state did not come through with regard to safety.”
While there may be some aid in this area available from the federal government, “it’s an enormous expense,” but also “non-negotiable for us.”
Leach said that the district was able to go to its fund balance to help with this issue currently, but has now made it a dedicated budget item for next year.
In the meantime, the district has hired outside security for off-hours at the high school and middle school and at the elementary schools during class time. In the future, Leach added, these security personnel will be district employees.
Both Leach and Holmes said that the district will be installing a new single-entry emergency door at the high school – “a priority” – that will make the building more secure.
Visitors will need to be buzzed in by a greeter stationed in a glass partitioned small atrium – akin to an airlock – between the outside of the building and the actual hallway that provides access to classrooms. Part of this reinforcement of the building will involve bulletproof glass and 3M bulletproof tape around the high school’s entry. In case of emergency, a panic button will shut all class doors from the inside.
While classes are in session, doors are locked to prevent unauthorized entry from the lobby, plus there will be an additional security guard.
District looks to buy five new buses The school board will ask voters for their approval to buy five new school buses to replace five older buses that have come to the end of their lifespans: three 65-passenger, propane-powered buses; one 29-passenger bus; and one 21-passenger wheelchair bus, at a maximum cost of $467,301.57.
The district plans on a maximum expenditure of $300,000 to be taken from the capital bus reserve for the purpose; state transportation aid will pick up the difference, or $263,558.09.
Capital projects/construction/repairsAmong the repair and renovation projects set to take place in the district once this school year ends: “the swimming pool (at the high school); AC; other things” being fixed, Holmes said.
“It’s all going well (but) it looks like a battle zone,” Holmes added. “We’re ahead of schedule … it will be a beautiful space.”
He added that the district is trying to do the “easy stuff: asphalt, floors, removing old oil tanks” and so on.
Meanwhile, Holmes said that bids for the Park Avenue air conditioning project are due on April 13, with approval expected to begin on the 19th.
Other projects planned for the summer breakHigh School: Rehabbing the existing generator. It was “a lot cheaper” than buying a new unit, according to Holmes. Also: bus parking lot paving.
“All lots will be done,” Holmes said, and “will be good for ten years.”
Middle School: the tech room will be modernized, with new floors, glass walls and the computer room; paving the parking lot. And: the boys’ rest rooms will be redone, with new, “more affordable” epoxy floors in “funky colors,” Leach said.
Park Avenue: New swing sets and benches
Sanfordville: Paving (the project is currently out for competitive bids).
Additionally, the district will be installing environmentally friendly, cost-saving LED lighting – 8,000 bulbs – and will install epoxy floors in all bathrooms as needed, as well as matching fixtures.
Demographics and enrollmentAccording to a demographic study done by Western Suffolk BOCES, enrollment at Park Avenue Elementary is projected to peak at 505 students by 2020, dropping off after that with a projected total of 460 students by the 2024 school year.
By comparison, there are 479 students in this year’s group.
Sanfordville’s next big bump in student population is projected for 2019, at 712 students; currently, there are 657 kids at Sanfordville.
Again, the numbers are projected to settle down around 670 by 2024.
By contrast, there are 1,090 students enrolled in the Middle School at present. That number won’t see a big bump, according to the BOCES study, until 2024, when as many as 1,132 kids are expected to be enrolled.
Leach emphasized that maintaining an appropriate number of class sections, along with ”good (instructional) supports,” will both enable WV to maintain its relatively small class sizes (a maximum of about 20 kids per Kindergarten class, and up to 25 for grades 1–4) and educational quality – features that many district stakeholders highly value.
Those supports include: professional development; library resources, STEM offerings, etc., particularly at the elementary level, Leach added.
“It’s about tailoring instruction to the students’ level, not one-size-fits-all.”