May 15 budget updates

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The City School District of Albany Board of Education unanimously adopted a $261.6 million budget proposal May 14 that would contain spending and minimize the local tax impact while continuing to support nearly all of the district’s current programs and services.

The revised proposal, which Superintendent Kaweeda G. Adams presented at the meeting, would eliminate 142.6 positions to close a $15 million deficit. The proposal represents an increase of less than half a percent – 0.47% – over the current year’s budget. It includes a 1.96% tax-levy increase, which is equal to the district’s tax cap.

Positions proposed for elimination include administrative, teaching and support staff personnel throughout the organization. Attrition through retirements, resignations and unfilled vacancies would account for 64.6 of the positions proposed for elimination. 

“Our school district is focused every year on the balance between what our students need and deserve, and what our community can afford,” said Board of Education President Anne Savage. “That’s especially true in hard economic times like those we are facing now. 

“While we know the superintendent and her staff have been forced to make many incredibly difficult decisions that will impact the programs and services the district will be able to offer our students, the board was committed to putting forward a budget proposal that represents the highest level of service we can provide for our students while maintaining the fiscal responsibility that we know our community needs in these difficult times.”

It is the seventh consecutive year that the district has proposed a tax-levy increase of less than 2%. The average annual proposed increase over that period is 1.02%.

Voting process during COVID-19

As with all school districts in New York, the budget vote and board election will be conducted entirely by mail this year due to COVID-19. 

The district will mail absentee ballots to all qualified voters during the week of May 26. Qualified voters include all voters registered with the Albany County Board of Elections and those who have registered directly with the school district.

Completed ballots will be due June 9 by 5 p.m. Please visit our Voting during closure section for more information about this new process. 

What happens if the budget is not approved?

If voters do not approve the budget, the board will have two options:

  • Put up the same proposal or a revised proposal for a second vote. Due to the additional expenses of full absentee voting due to COVID-19, that would cost approximately $150,000. 
  • Adopt a contingency budget. That would require an additional $2.3 million in cuts. It also would limit spending, including prohibiting spending on student supplies, equipment and certain raises. Under a contingency budget, community groups also are required to pay to use school buildings. 

Also on the ballot

The ballot also will include Proposition #2, a proposal to purchase a piece of property adjacent to Delaware Community School for $13,300 using funds from the capital reserve. The property would be used for additional recreational space for students. Proposition #2 would have no impact on taxes. 

In addition to the budget and proposition votes, three candidates are running for one open board seat: Victor Cain, Hassan Elminyawi and Edith Leet. The board appointed Elminyawi last summer to serve the remainder of a vacant position; that term expires June 30.

Proposed staffing adjustments

The 142.6 positions proposed for reduction represent about 8% of the district’s current total workforce of 1,809. 

The proposal reduces the number of administrative positions by 7.2% of the current workforce in that employee group (five positions out 69), the number of teaching staff and related positions by 7.5% of the current workforce in that employee group (73.4 positions out of 982), and the number of support staff positions by 8.9% of the current workforce in that employee group (59.5 positions of 665).

The proposal also reduces the number of management confidential and other staff by 4.4% (4.5 positions out of 102).

The most significant staffing revision in the final proposal in comparison to the draft the board reviewed at its May 12 meeting related to teaching assistants. The final proposal would eliminate 25 TA positions – 10 through attrition – instead of the 53.5 TA positions proposed in the earlier draft. 

Proposed program reductions

Programmatic implications of the proposed reductions would include:

  • Increased maximum class sizes at all elementary grade levels
  • Reductions in supports to general education classrooms, including teaching assistants, behavior specialists, reading teachers, speech teachers and other staff who support classroom teachers.   
  • Reduction in instructional coaches
  • Instrumental music lessons at fewer grade levels for elementary students. Lessons currently begin in third grade but will begin in either fourth or fifth grade in 2020-21. The district is committed to supporting a model that begins lessons in fourth grade if possible. 
  • Elimination of freshman athletic teams at Albany High School, impacting boys’ and girls’ basketball, and baseball. Freshman in those sports would still have the opportunity to play on JV teams.
  • Elimination of the district-wide second-grade swimming program
  • Reduction in off-site field trips and other enrichment programming supported by discretionary funds at each school.

The proposal also includes non-programmatic cuts, including reductions to service contracts, purchases of equipment, conferences and professional development, and staffing in maintenance and operations, and staffing in security.

Maintaining programs and services

In spite of the proposed reductions, the budget would continue to support nearly all of the district’s current programs and services. These include:

  • All current full-day prekindergarten programs, serving more than 1,000 students in all 11 elementary schools and at 18 community locations
  • Three magnet elementary schools
  • The bilingual Dual Language Program at Delaware Community School
  • STEM/STEAM-focused initiatives at all grade levels
  • Band, chorus and orchestra starting in elementary school
  • 58 athletic teams serving more than 1,100 students in grades 7-12
  • Community Schools initiatives at seven schools: Arbor Hill, O’Neal Middle School, Giffen, Schuyler, Sheridan Prep, TOAST and Tony Clement. A Community School provides academic, health and social services to students and families before, during and after the typical school day.
  • Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and University in the High School courses at Albany High
  • AVID college- and career-readiness programs for high school and middle school students
  • All current Career and Technical Education pathways at Albany High’s Abrookin Career and Technical Center
  • The Albany Marching Falcons band and color guard programs (including winter guard)
  • Albany High’s award-winning Theatre Ensemble program
  • Albany International Center, an optional transitional program for refugee and immigrant students in grades 6-12 
  • Grant-funded professional development aligned with our Vision, Mission and Goals (focus on equity)
  • Culturally relevant teaching and learning practices
  • Restorative practices