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2017-18 proposed budget goes before residents on May 16

On Tuesday, May 16, residents of the Fort Plain Central School District will vote on a proposed $19,890,000 budget for the 2017-18 school year. The Board of Education adopted the budget proposal on Wednesday, April 12.

Improved Learning Environment and Outcomes

  • Safety and Social-Emotional Development Health
  • Curriculum Development and Support
  • Fiscal Resources
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Use of Data to Inform Practice and Decisions

The proposed budget carries a 2 percent spending increase with a 1.95 percent tax levy increase, which is below the District’s calculated tax levy “cap” of 6.26 percent. A simple majority of voters (more than 50 percent) is required for budget approval.

“The priorities identified by the Board of Education continue to guide budget development in the FPCSD,” said Dr. David Ziskin, superintendent of schools.

“A long-term commitment to clearly defined priorities ensures our resource decisions are purposeful and grounded in what we believe will best serve the interests of Fort Plain students and taxpayers. The 2017-18 Fort Plain School District budget directs resources to our greatest areas of need while again remaining within the allowable tax cap for our District.”

Revenues for the district come from two main sources – local taxes and state aid. Fort Plain is slated to receive a 2.57 percent increase in state aid for next year. Ziskin said that while this increase is welcome, a portion of it is offset by the fact that a 10-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) is set to expire, which lessens the potential positive impact of the state aid increase.

Aside from the proposed increase in the tax levy for next year of 1.95 percent (or $5,580,146), Fort Plain is also proposing to use $780,000 from fund balance (essentially district savings) to help fund anticipated expenses for next year.

Resources directed to identified priority areas

The Board, administrators, and faculty teams at the Junior-Senior High School and Harry Hoag Elementary continue to identify opportunities for improvement and to implement corresponding action plans within each of the District’s identified priority areas. Highlights of areas supported in the 2017-18 proposed budget include:

Priority Area: Safety and student social and emotional developmental health

The FPCSD faculty and staff have received research-based training designed to create trauma-sensitive environments for students who have been affected by adverse childhood experiences. In 2017-18 efforts will continue to ensure that all students are supported in ways that enhance their potential to learn.

At Harry Hoag, a Student Behavior Intervention Team gathers data and identifies strategic interventions for students struggling with various aspects of the school environment. A key component for this team has been the addition of a Behavior Specialist who supports students and teachers with strategies that correct and prevent behaviors that can disrupt learning.

The Junior-Senior High School also has a team of professional staff, the Child Study Team (CST), which regularly discusses students who may require supportive interventions. One new option for support available to this team is an Academic Coaching Center (ACC), where the focus is on providing time and space for students who may need extra support to ensure they are progressing toward graduation. Students who present risk factors are referred by the CST to receive academic coaching from a certified teaching assistant. A personalized approach is taken to assist students in coping with factors that may pose barriers to success in school.

“The ACC is a safe place for students who otherwise may have dropped out or not graduated,” said teaching assistant Denise Smith.

Priority Area: Curriculum development and support

2017-18 will mark Harry Hoag Elementary School’s third year of instructional coaching with Dr. Cheryl Dozier, a University at Albany professor with childhood literacy expertise. Dr. Dozier works with grade-level teams and models instructional strategies to support consistent implementation of research-based literacy strategies throughout the school.

Department leaders at the Junior-Senior High School will continue to facilitate the creation of curriculum blueprints and assessment development in 2017-18. Also, the high school planning team is in the process of designing two new pathways to graduation. A pathway is a themed-based approach that includes high school coursework that leads to college credits, or industry certification, as well as a high school diploma. In Fort Plain, two pathways that integrate career education into core academics are in the planning stages. The first is Engineering Technology, which utilizes the Engineering by Design curriculum, the second will be connected to Business Management.

Priority Area: Family and community engagement

The Board has targeted building trust and communication with parents as areas for emphasis over the past two years. Information is made available to parents, students, and the community through various forms of print and electronic communication including newsletters, the District Facebook page, the Remind text service, and the District website which is currently being redesigned.

Priority Area: Fiscal resources

“The Board and administration are committed to providing a strong education to our students in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Dr. Ziskin. “The tax levy increase proposed is again below 2 percent. In fact, the tax levy is still less than it was five years ago.”

As student and instructional needs were assessed, it became apparent that staffing adjustments would be necessary. An elementary special education teacher will be added due to an influx of students requiring special education support entering kindergarten. A speech pathologist will also be added to account for an increased need for services. These additions are being offset by the elimination of two teaching positions in other areas and a reduction in contracted speech services.

 Other items on the ballot

A second proposal on the May 16 ballot will ask residents to vote on the use of $270,000 from the District’s Bus Purchase Reserve Fund for the purchase of new school vehicles. Expenditures of reserve funds require voter approval; however, since 100 percent of the cost is paid from the fund, there will be no impact on the tax levy.

In addition to voting on the budget, residents will be asked to elect three members of the Board of Education to three-year terms commencing on July 1, 2017 and expiring on June 30, 2020. Todd McFee, Jeffrey L. Jones, and David Przestrzelski terms expire on June 30, 2017.

Qualified residents of the Fort Plain Central School District will vote on the proposed budget Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Polls will be open 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Harry Hoag gymnasium. 

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