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District

Budget Q&A

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General South Colonie Budget Information

 
 
 
 

  • The annual district budget vote will be held on Tuesday, May, 21 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Voting will take place at both Sand Creek and Lisha Kill Middle Schools. Residents who are unsure on their assigned polling location can look it up here: polling location lookup website

    *Please note when entering your birthday you will need to include the following symbol: /

     

     
  • As South Colonie plans for the 2024-25 school year, the focus has been on maintaining programs that provide equitable academic opportunities and services for students, many which have been grant funded through stimulus funds for the past several years. The priorities will be the expansion of ENL (English as a new language) programming, expanding universal pre-K programming, strengthening the continuum of services for our special education population, and planning for both the sustainability of our programs, staffing, and facilities for the next generation of Colonie.

     
  • Based on the South Colonie second draft budget, South Colonie administration is proposing $128,785,118 with a budget-to-budget change over the current school year of +$6,590,416, or 5.39%. The district is anticipating an increase in foundation aid, which contributes to the large increase for next year’s revenue.

     

Program Highlights

 

 
 
 

  • The proposed 2024-25 budget preserves all current programs and services and provides key enhancements as outlined below:

    Transportation and O&M Highlights

    • Bus maintenance replacement plan to ensure students are transported on buses that meet the latest safety standards while allowing the district to phase out older, high mileage vehicles to avoid the cost inefficiencies related to keeping them in service.
    • Continuation of district-wide maintenance and paving plan to support on-going wear and tear.

    Staffing

    • 1 custodian mechanic to support the addition of the district’s new property at 1015 Watervliet Shaker Road.

    Student Support Services Highlights

    • Student support services highlights include additional staff to support the growing needs of ENL (English New Language) and special education student populations.
    • Continued emphasis on social-emotional health through sustaining previously added staffing for those areas.

    Staffing

    • 1 English as a New Language (ENL) Teacher to enhance support for our ELLs in our growing UPK programs.
    • 1 School Psychologist to support mental health initiatives and enhance the special education evaluation process.
    • 1 Elementary Teacher MTSS Trainer (TOSA) to provide training for faculty and staff on processes involved in our academic and behavioral intervention models.
    • 2 Physical Therapists, which is budget neutral, to bring our physical therapy services in-house instead of contracting to an outside vendor. 
    • Replacing retirements allows us to keep sustainable programming levels that we have grown in the past few years.

    Instructional Highlights

    • Additional staff to support expanded UPK programming at Shaker Road.
    • Continued STEAM education programming at the elementary and middle school levels. 
    • Continued career exploration program for students to gain knowledge and exposure to the most desired and applicable career experiences, college majors, associate degrees and skilled trade professions. 
    • Implementation of district-wide technology replacement plan to support on-going wear and tear and applicable upgrades.

    Staffing

    • Teacher and 1 TA for UPK Expansion to Shaker Road Elementary School, launching the final program to encompass all of our elementary schools. 
    • Coaching/Advisor Positions have been enhanced or added based on evaluation of time and need in those buildings/activities to support the importance of extracurricular activities in making well-rounded students. 
    • 1 IT Computer Tech will continue to grow the support for our instructional technology, including the launching of a student help desk at the high school in the future. 
    • Replacing retirements allows us to keep sustainable programming levels that we have grown in the past few years.
     

Bus Proposition Details

 

 
 
 

  • In addition to voting on the school budget on May 21, South Colonie residents will be asked to consider authorizing the purchase of 9 replacement school buses of various sizes—six 66 passenger buses, two 16 passenger buses, one 42 passenger bus — at an overall cost not to exceed $1,390,000. 

    The bus purchase is part of an ongoing bus replacement plan designed to ensure students are transported on buses that meet the latest safety standards while allowing the district to phase out older, high mileage vehicles to avoid the cost inefficiencies related to keeping them in service.  Bus purchases are financed over a five year period and aided simultaneously. This proposition has minimal tax impact expected to begin in 2025-26.

     
  • School Districts across New York state are required to begin purchasing zero-emission buses as part of the normal replacement of each system’s fleet and related equipment and facilities starting in 2027 with the school's ability to do a two-year waiver (extending the first required purchase to 2029). The deadline for school district’s to be fully zero-emission (all-electric) school buses is by July 1, 2035.

    On average, electric buses cost two to three times as much as replacement buses powered by diesel or another alternative fuel. An electric bus is $350,000-$400,000 compared to $120,000 for a traditional bus. The district has applied for EPA and NYSERDA grants, but has yet to receive approval in time for purchasing electric buses on this year’s cycle. South Colonie is a non-priority district on the national EPA grant. State aid and NYSERDA grants for electric buses are currently being fine-tuned to maximize savings to the district taxpayers. As funding becomes available through these grants, the district will consider the impact to the budget and the taxpayers for possibly purchasing the first electric bus in the 2025-2026 fiscal year.  

    The district currently has an eight-year replacement life cycle for all buses and non-electric buses purchased this year will be able to complete the full life cycle prior to the deadline of 2035.

    Additionally, the South Colonie Central School district does not currently have the infrastructure or funding in place to support electric buses and/or accompanying charging stations at its current transportation facility located on Winston Place. Should the district have the ability to begin purchasing electric buses in 2025-26, the particular buses would require chargers that could be hooked up temporarily to the current bus garage and moved to the new facility in the future. The full infrastructure for a full-scale electric fleet needs to wait until the new transportation center is built. 

    On Oct. 18, 2022 voters in the South Colonie Central School District approved two capital project propositions that together will result in $120 million in improvements across the district.  The third phase of the project includes a new transportation center. The hope is that funding will also be available from the state at that time of the build to support the associated costs with installing charging equipment.

     
     

Budget 101

 

 
 

  • Under New York state law, if the school budget is defeated, the board of education has two options: put the same or a modified budget up for another vote, or immediately adopt a contingent budget. If residents defeat the proposed budget during a second vote, the board must adopt a contingent budget.

     
     
  • State law mandates that under a contingent budget, a school district must adopt a budget with no tax levy increase and eliminate all non-contingent expenses, such as certain student supplies, certain equipment purchases and community use of school facilities that results in a district expense. (In other words, the district would likely need to charge fees for any community use of buildings and grounds.) The administrative budget would also be subject to certain restrictions.

     
  • If South Colonie adopts a contingent budget for 2024-25, the district would have to cut an additional $2,334,354 from school programs, staffing and equipment.

  • The tax levy is the total amount of money a school district raises in taxes each year from all property owners in the district.

    The tax rate is the amount paid for each $1,000 of taxable assessed value of property. The rate is used to calculate each individual property tax bill. In districts that cover just one municipality, the tax rate is figured by dividing the tax levy by the total taxable assessed value of the district, then multiplying by 1,000. This gives you the tax rate, which is expressed as the amount per $1,000 of assessed property value.

    In districts that encompass more than one municipality, equalization rates are factored in as well to assign a fair share of the tax levy among the municipalities and to the taxpayers within them.

     
  • In New York state, each municipality determines its own level of property assessment. This means that property in different municipalities could be assessed less than, higher than or at actual full market value (i.e., the price for which a property could be sold). In order to distribute school district or county taxes evenly among multiple municipalities, the level of assessment for each of those municipalities must be equalized to full market value. To do this, the state uses an equalization rate:
    Total assessed value of the municipality ÷ Total market value of the municipality = Equalization rate


    Once the full market value of each municipality is established, the school district or county can determine the amount of taxes that should be collected from each municipality.


    Click here to find more information about equalization rates and local assessment rolls.

     
  • The tax levy limit is the highest allowable tax levy (before exemptions) that a school district can propose as part of its annual budget with the support of a simple majority of voters (50% + 1) required for approval. In other words, if a district proposes a tax levy increase at or below the limit, a simple majority of voters is needed for the budget to pass. Any proposed tax levy amount above this limit would require the support of a 60% supermajority of voters to be approved. The tax levy limit sets a threshold requiring districts to obtain a higher level of community support for a proposed tax levy above a certain amount.

     
  • Fund balance is created when there is money left at the end of the fiscal year, either by the district spending less than budgeted or receiving more revenue than anticipated. An “unassigned” fund balance provides monies that can be used for a variety of needs, unlike reserve funds, which are targeted for specific purposes. While recommendations from within the financial industry often suggest that an organization should have an unassigned fund balance of between 5 and 10 percent of their total annual budget, New York state limits school districts’ fund balances to 4 percent.

    South Colonie plans to allocate $3,860,000 from its fund balance and reserves to lower the total tax levy and reduce the tax impact on district residents in the coming year.

     

     
  • New York State’s School Tax Relief Program, or STAR, provides partial school property tax savings to eligible homeowners. Most New Yorkers who own and live in their homes are eligible for STAR savings on their primary residences. Because the STAR program is not a district program, taxpayers STAR savings are not factored into a school budget.

    More information about STAR can be found at this website. 

     
  • It takes many people to create and maintain a safe and productive learning environment for nearly 4,800 children in our eight schools. Employees teach, transport, coach and care for the community’s children. They clean buildings, cook meals, maintain playing fields, order supplies, comply with regulations and make decisions so that schools run effectively and efficiently and more. The district has nearly 878 employees, including many part-time staff members. Every year, approximately 80% percent of the district’s budget goes to pay salaries and benefits.

     
  • Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, provide shared services to school districts as a way to pool resources and share costs. Sharing allows districts to provide programs and services that they might not be able to afford otherwise. A district using BOCES services for the current school year is reimbursed a portion of the cost of the services in the following school year by New York state. The amount returned to each district varies by service and is based on a formula that takes into account the district’s financial resources. The South Colonie Central School District receives 55.7% reimbursement on the aidable BOCES services it uses.

     
  • A capital reserve fund allows the district to set aside money for future capital construction projects. Much like a savings account, this money is set aside so that a significant project or expense does not affect the budget all at once. The fund cannot be established without voter approval, and reserve funds cannot be spent without voter approval. Because capital assets have a predetermined useful life expectancy, a capital reserve fund reduces the need to borrow money to replace those assets in the future, lowering debt and interest costs while also enabling the district to still maximize state aid. 

    South Colonie obtained voter approval on November 14, 2017 to establish a Capital Reserve Fund to set aside money for future capital improvement projects. The capital reserve fund has a maximum capital reserve amount of $10,000,000 and may be funded over a 10 year period. The Capital Reserve is funded from monies not needed for current purposes and unexpended balances remaining at the end of a fiscal year.

     
  • The proposed tax levy increase of 2.99% is below the tax levy limit that is calculated for 2024-25 through a prescribed state formula. As a result, the budget requires the support of a simple majority (50 percent + 1) of voters to be approved based on the state’s tax cap law.

    Residents’ tax bills are determined by several other factors that are out of the district’s control, including assessment levels, which vary by municipality, and equalization rates, which are set by the New York State Office of Real Property Services.

    While final tax rates cannot be determined until the summer when final assessments and equalization rates become available, we estimate the following tax increases for the three towns that comprise the school district: Colonie ($29.96), Guilderland ($17.97), and Niskayuna ($19.33).

     

Absentee Ballot/Early Voter Information

  • Please contact the district clerk Amber Lanigan by email at lanigana@scolonie.org or by phone at 518-869-3576 ext. 0442.

  • In order to streamline the voting process, a new voter law has been enacted in New York introducing early mail ballots for all elections, including the South Colonie annual budget vote and board election. 

    Under the provisions of this new legislation, eligible voters in the district now have the opportunity to obtain and cast their ballots well in advance of the annual vote and board election. The initiative aims to provide greater flexibility and convenience, enabling residents to participate more easily in the voting process.

    Early mail ballot applications will be available during regular school business hours at the South Colonie Central School District Office, located at 102 Loralee Drive, Colonie, beginning Monday, April 22. Any applications for early mail ballots must be received by the District Clerk at least seven (7) days before the scheduled annual vote if the ballot is to be mailed to the applicant. Alternatively, if the applicant prefers to receive the ballot in person, the application must be submitted by the day before the annual vote.

    With a strict deadline of 5:00 pm on Tuesday, May 21, all early vote ballots must be received by the District Clerk to ensure timely processing and counting. The law underscores the significance of every vote and seeks to ensure that all voices are heard in the upcoming annual vote and board election.

    For further information regarding the budget vote and board election, residents are encouraged to visit the South Colonie website. The link to the relevant page can be found here.

     

  • No. Absentee ballots will not be mailed to all registered voters as they were during 2020’s unprecedented school budget vote. Qualified voters who would need to vote by absentee ballot must submit an application unless they are listed on the voter rolls as “permanently disabled.”

  • Qualified voters can request an absentee ballot if they will not be able to vote in person due to illness or physical disability, hospitalization, incarceration (unless incarcerated for a felony), travel outside the voter’s county or city of residence for employment or business reasons, studies, primary caregiver obligations or vacation on the day of election.

  • Applications may not be submitted more than 30 days prior to the election (April 16).

    If you would like your absentee ballot mailed to you, you must submit your application at least seven days before the vote (May 9) If you want to pick your ballot up from the district, you must submit your application one day before the vote (May 20).

    Voters who wish to vote in the May 16 school budget vote and board election via absentee ballot are encouraged to submit their application as soon as they have filled it out.

  • Once you receive your ballot, carefully read and follow the directions for filling out the ballot. Then, sign and date the envelope where indicated. If your envelope is unsigned or illegible, your vote can not legally be counted.

  • If you tear, deface or wrongly mark your ballot, contact the district clerk at 518-869-3576 ext. 0442 immediately for instructions on how to obtain a new ballot.

  • Ballots may be returned by mail, or returned in person to the District Office. If your ballot does not arrive at the district office by 5 p.m. on the day of the vote, it will not be counted.

  • The district will collect and hold onto all the ballots until the day of the vote. Ballots will be separated from the envelope that bears your name, return address, or other personally identifiable information before they are counted.

  • Just as voters are asked to sign a register when they vote in person, voters using absentee ballots are asked to provide a signature. This signature constitutes an affidavit — you are attesting to your identity as a voter who is qualified to cast a ballot in this election. This information is recorded on the district’s voter rolls — a list of names of all the people who cast ballots. 

  • Yes. While your name will be registered on the district’s voter rolls, your ballot will be separated from the envelope that bears your name, return address, or other personally identifiable information before the envelope holding your ballot is opened.

  • Since ballots are separated from personally identifiable information before they are counted, the public counting process is anonymous. No one viewing the counting of ballots will be able to match a voter’s personally identifiable information with their specific ballot.

  • The annual school budget vote is an official public meeting of the district, and as such, it is open to the public. South Colonie will begin the counting process on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at 8 p.m. (immediately after the polls close.) The results will be available as soon as all ballots have been accounted for, but no later than 5 p.m. on May 22 (24 hours following the deadline for ballots to be received by the district). Results are typically shared with the media immediately following the count. They are also published on the district’s website.