During the April 21 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent John Carmello presented Draft 4 of the 2020-2021 district budget. With a $2.9 million gap due to the COVID-19 crisis, the school district is forced to cut 25 positions. Much of this will involve repurposing and restructuring the way reading is taught.
The District was anticipating receiving an additional $2.2 million in State Aid with the first two drafts of the budget, but due to the COVID-19 crisis and its effect on the State Budget, the Governor announced that Foundation Aid levels will be the same as they were in 2019-2020.
High-needs districts like Troy must scramble to close multi-million dollar budget gaps, whereas low-needs suburban schools must only absorb a small loss in revenue. Carmello said this disproportionate funding is both unfair and inequitable. He is working on advocacy efforts in an attempt to receive additional funding from both the State and the Federal governments.
The District will be reimagining how it delivers reading instruction. With small class sizes of only 19 elementary students per class, qualified and certified core teachers will teach reading next year. The 23 reading teacher positions across the district will be eliminated. Many of these teachers have multiple certifications and will be encouraged to apply for other vacant positions.
“Our goal is to have the least possible impact on our students and their learning,” said Carmello.” It may seem counterintuitive to reduce reading teachers, but many schools don’t have reading teachers so long as the class sizes remain low, supports are available and professional development remains as rigorous as possible for core instruction. There’s no good choice here but we felt that this is a way to repurpose this instruction and deliver it in a different way and get the same results, or at least close to it.”
Other cuts include a clerical position and a laborer/custodian. The purchase of some new technology equipment will also be suspended.
All three unions were presented with the option to freeze pay increases and to accept a change to health insurance co-pays which would have resulted in a budget with no cuts to staff. The Troy Administrators Association accepted the offer resulting in a $135,980 savings. Both the Troy Teachers Association and the CSEA turned down the offer.
The $116,178,136 budget has an allowable tax cap of 2.13 percent. Should the Board decide to adopt this tax levy, the annual increase in taxes to the average homeowner* would be $45.75 or $3.96 a month. Carmello also discussed other options including a 1.63 percent increase, which would amount to an annual increase of $36.32 or $3.03 a month for the average homeowner, but would increase the gap by $186,004, resulting in even more cuts to staff and programs.
The Board will hold a workshop on May 19 to fine-tune the budget, as this will be after the first assessment period in which the State may make changes to aid depending on their revenue. We anticipate the Board will adopt a budget on May 20. At this time, the District is waiting on the Governor to establish a vote date.
*Based on an assessed home value of $100,000.