By Jennifer Corr
The Jericho Union Free School District Board of Education held their second budget workshop on Feb.9.
According to the presentation on the budget, presented by Victor Manuel, Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs, this upcoming year’s tax levy cap will rise to 4.37 percent (above the consumer price index cap of two percent). The district is entitled to a “carry-over” because the district had a zero tax-levy increase this current year, as well as seven of the last nine years, putting the annual increase below 0.21 percent.
The presentation stated that while it’s always the district’s goal to balance achieving a tax levy within the tax levy threshold and expanding all current instructional programs, the increases in health insurance premiums, transportation costs and overall inflation is causing the tax levy increase to be higher in recent years. But, with the carry-over, the budget will still be below the tax levy threshold.
“I will tell you our proposed levy will not be close to that [tax levy cap,] but it will be higher than it has been over the last few years,” said Dr. Manuel. “Health insurance premiums for districts across New York State who participate in the New York State Health Insurance program increased 18 percent over the calendar year. To us, that translates to $2.6 million dollars which is a significant hit to our budget and for budgets across the New York State area.”
This year’s budget strategies include remaining committed to being a premier school district and delivering 21st century education; keeping a multi-year perspective on the budget; developing long-range plans for educational programs and goals; continuing to upgrade and renovate facilities and replacing technology and expanding technological initiatives.
This summer, the district plans to replace portions of the roof at the middle and high school; replace the outdoor canopy at the middle and high school; renovate the science and art rooms at the middle school; replace windows around the original part of the middle and high school building; replace gym door partitions district wide and repair roof top units district wide.
According to the presentation, Michael Hahn, the director of buildings and grounds, and John Grillo, an architect, have continually assessed Jericho’s district grounds and buildings.
They have recommended the following projects at this time: replace all existing windows on the second floor of Cantiague Elementary School (the first floor windows will be replaced at a later time,) as well as renovate the bathrooms there (Hahn and Grillo have divided the bathroom renovations into two phases, and phase one is recommended for the budget); renovate bathrooms at George Jackson Elementary School as part of a phase one project; renovate the bathrooms at Jeffrey Ratner Robert Seaman Elementary School; replace the kitchen windows at Robert Williams Elementary School; renovate the bathrooms as part of a phase one project at the Jericho High School and Middle School, as well as finish phase two of the window replacements there and reconstruct the music classroom. The total cost of these capital facilities projects would be approximately $8.5 million. Funding for the projects will come partly through the general budget, approximately $1.3 million, and from a capital reserve, approximately $7.2 million.
As for staffing, Kim Conger, the director of pupil personnel services, said, there are minimal changes.
“We are looking at adding a physical therapist as part of our staff,” Conger said. “We’ve been having lots of difficulty maintaining physical therapists. We have multiple people servicing our students. They’re leaving, they’re coming. We feel that it would be in the best interest of our students for continuity and support to hire a physical therapist as a staff member K through 12.”
The special needs budget line expenditures have decreased within the past few years, and the budget has lowered by a half a million from this year to next year.
“I want to make it clear that it’s not from reducing services, it’s a matter of fewer IEP students year to year,” Manuel said.
To get more information about the budget and what’s in it, visit jerichoschools.org. Click on the district tab, then the Board of Education tab, and then the agendas and minutes from current year tab. There, you will be able to see the agendas from the Jan. 19 and Feb. 9 Board of Education meetings, where the first two budget workshops were held. In the agendas, there’s copies of the budget presentations. The next budget workshop will be held March 2. There will be a full budget review of revenues and expenditures on March 16 and the budget will be adopted on March 30.
Also at the Board of Education meeting:
Feb. 9’s Board of Education meeting was held at Cantiague Elementary School, and the school was certainly represented. Students from Cantiague were brought up to the stage to showcase what they’ve been learning through the program, Stepping Outside Cantiague, which is part of the school’s curriculum fair.
“We decided to highlight a new take on distanced learning,” said Dr. Joseph Sapienza, the principal of Cantiague Elementary School. “Over the course of the year, our students and staff have taken learning outside the walls of Cantiague and have expanded our imaginations and shared experiences that built appreciation for the world around us.”
The kindergarten students Zoom-ed around the world. The students used Zoom to connect with pre-school students at Broughshane Primary School in Northern Ireland. They also used Skype to connect with a classmate named Fateh who, while traveling in India, introduced the class to his family and brought them, virtually, into a Gurdwara, a place of worship.
The first-grade class got to learn about holidays all around the world, learning about Germany, India, Mexico, Bangladesh, China and other countries. The students got to pick their favorite country and write about everything they learned.
The second-graders adopted a calf named Delilah from Stargo Dairy Farm in upstate, New York. The students wrote letters to the farmer, and received digital updates about the calf back from the farmer. Second graders also connected with children around the world reading picture books by author Christian Robinson through Google Meets and digital postcards.
Third-grade students participated in a month-long exchange with students from around the world. The students, according to the presentation presented at the Board of Education meeting, “had a chance to understand that where we live affects how we live through Level Up Village’s Kenyan Video Exchange Program.” The third-graders then made their own videos about their daily lives in Jericho. While a typical day of school may look different between the classrooms of Kenya and Jericho, NY, there are similarities. The students have also been receiving “snail-mail” from Sunny the Mail Snail, which includes information about animals, creatures and facts about different places around the world.
Fourth-grade students have been learning about early European explorers, including Henry Hudson.
And fifth-graders participated in World Read Aloud Day, meeting authors virtually. They got ideas for new books to read, as well as tips for becoming an author themselves. Students also connected with classes around the world virtually during this program.
The students presenting, Dr. Sapienza said, had been practicing their presentation for weeks. They did a great job.