Large Crowd as New Hartford School Proposes 2.9% Tax Increase
It was standing room only at Tuesday night's New Hartford school board meeting as the district faced faculty and community members while presenting their 2018-19 budget. After a boost in Foundation Aid and an additional Bullet Grant from the New York State Senate, the district was able to avoid cuts in programs, extra-curricular activities and staff; all while increasing taxes within the tax cap at 2.9%.
Three elementary teacher's positions will be eliminated next year based on a reported drop in enrollment. According to faculty, three teachers were given notice on Tuesday that their positions will be eliminated if enrollment numbers remain steady, saving the district about $150,000.
According to the district's budget report, an additional $600,000 will be received by New York State following this past weekend's budget agreement. Senator Joe Griffo's office, however, claims that the additional amount of Foundation Aid and grant money totals $733,000. Mary Mandel, the Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs, thanked Senator Joseph Griffo and Assemblyman Brian Miller for the additional aid, which she said allowed the district to avoid major cuts.
The fiscal crisis, which appears to have been avoided, comes at a time when teachers and the district have been working without a contract agreement, dating back to June of last year. During the public comment session, teacher Frank DuRoss read a letter he had addressed to the board which criticized the mixed messages that have been sent during this budget process and teacher contract negotiations. He said the confusion has caused a "distrust" that has made the process very stressful for faculty. DuRoss asked for answers to several questions that were posed in his letter, and urged the board and superintendent to create a far more open dialogue in the future.
Following the meeting, Superintendent Robert Nole agreed to an interview on WIBX's First News with Keeler, to be aired live on Friday morning at 7:35.