On Tuesday, May 21, residents will vote on a proposed $93.7 million school budget for 2019-2020, calling for a 2.65 percent increase over the current year’s budget.
“Developing the annual school budget is one of the most important tasks for the district and the Board of Education,” said Superintendent Dr. Raymond Blanch. “Administrators and board members review enrollment projections, instructional program and staffing needs, special education placement costs, facility needs, and safety and security measures, with a commitment to safe, cost-effective, and high performing schools”.
The resulting proposed budget for 2019-2020 remains under the New York State tax levy cap for the eighth consecutive year and is estimated to increase the tax rate by 2.65 percent.
This fiscally responsible budget includes a minimal increase in health insurance costs and decreased retirement fund contribution rates, as well as maintaining class sizes and the introduction of World Language classes in sixth-grade. The largest budget increase comes from mandated special education costs, which are going up by nearly $900,000.
In addition to the proposed school budget, the Board of Education is asking voters to consider a bond in the amount of $7,566,295 to finance safety and security measures at Somers schools. The safety and well-being of students is always the district’s first priority.
A Safety Task Force made up of school officials, community members, and security experts has met multiple times to review and recommend security measures for the district. Many recommendations are already in place, including School Resource Officers, single point of entry, security vestibules and after school security guards at each school.
The Safety Task Force has also researched and recommended additional measures which would be financed by the proposed bond, including safety film on first-floor exterior doors and windows, and some interior glass, as well as a lock down panic system, swipe card access to classrooms, exterior door ajar notification alarms, an increased number of security cameras, and permanent walls around six open classrooms at the intermediate school.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be $10,745,000. The district would use $3,178,705 in capital reserve funds and finance the remaining cost with a $7,566,295 bond.
There is an uncontested race for three seats on the school board; Incumbent trustees Joseph A. Marra, and Ifay Chang are running for re-election and Chadwick Olsen has also thrown his hat in the ring.
Voting is on Tuesday, May 21 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. at the Somers Middle School gymnasium.