Granville school budget to cut tax levy

Granville school budget to cut tax levy
Granville Central School District

Kicking off the Granville Board of Education’s monthly meeting hot and heavy with the final budget workshop, the board approved the proposed tentative 2021-2022 budget of $27,010,929, a 3.35% increase from this year.

District business manager Cathy Somich’s presentation to the board noted that state aid makes up a large portion of Granville’s revenue with 71%, followed by the tax levy at 24% and a combination of non-resident student/Vermont tuition, Medicaid school-based sources, BOCES refunds from the prior year and interest income/donations/miscellaneous making up the final 5%.

Granville, with specific conditions to each category, will be expecting a revenues reimbursement of 90% for transportation aid, 74.9% for BOCES Aid one year after it is expended and 90% for building aid. This will occur despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attempts of capping both the transportation and BOCES Aid categories that were rejected.

Positive news for taxpayers in the Granville Central School District is the tax levy decrease of $600,000, which equals out to 8.48% from the 2020-2021 budget. The tax levy for 2021-2022 will be $6,476,119.

“This tax levy decrease will lower the tax rate for Granville taxpayers from $16.26 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation to approximately $14.70 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation,” Somich said in her presentation.

“This rate could fluctuate depending on changes in the equalization rate for the town and the individual property owner’s assessment. A taxpayer with property assessed at $150,000 would see a decrease of $234 in their 2021-2022 school tax bill.”

A budget hearing will take place on May 10 at 6 p.m. followed by the regularly scheduled board meeting. The budget’s public vote is scheduled for May 18 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the junior high school auditorium.

New guidance was provided to the district by the state Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control. This announcement saw a rapid change in operation of in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is new guidance from the state of New York to reopen schools. We have begun to review the content with our safety advisors to determine the best course of action and timeline for returning all students to the regular classroom setting as soon as it is safe to do so,” the district wrote in a public announcement on April 11.

“As a result of the new guidance, one change is immediate: All students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear masks at all times (except when eating) while in the building. This will begin on Monday, April 12. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter. More information will be out this week.”

A separate conversation with school superintendent Tom McGurl revealed that this is not a matter of opinion, but rather complying with the advice and guidance of professionals at the state, county and local levels.

Granville superintendent Tom McGurl

“Our own personal opinion on mask use doesn’t matter,” McGurl said. “These new regulations are more restrictive than they were. Schools are not the source of spread… It’s contradictory that we’re tightening the guidelines for school but loosening the guidelines for society.”

With the new changes, the next question being asked of McGurl and the board has been loud and clear.

When will students be required and expected to be in-person daily for school?

Although surrounding schools have announced plans to either transition immediately or at the beginning of the new school year in September, McGurl said the feasibility of pulling this off for the end of the 2020-2021 school year would be difficult with the factors of bussing, cohorts of classes for students and maintaining cleanliness and safety, but still worth looking into.

With the pandemic, it was asked by board member John Troy at the meeting if summer enrichment programs and summer school for students who require additional help will be offered or not.

McGurl said in-person high school summer-school will take place at Granville High School, already confirmed to be hosting students from Granville, Hartford and Whitehall.

As for the enrichment programs, McGurl awaits specific numbers for how much money the district will receive so they can pull this off safely. However, he is confident younger students will have opportunities.

“I do believe we will have some summer enrichment programs for the kids,” McGurl said.

New York State is providing Granville’s school district with funds in COVID-19 relief that will be put towards the addition of an elementary school social worker who will work with Mary J. Tanner and Granville Elementary School students, the reassignment of a certified teacher in the two elementary libraries to promote literacy and address pandemic learning loss and the addition of an Ag. teacher in the Junior/Senior High School.

“In 2020-2021, we ended Young Scholars, Arts and Education and summer enrichment for elementary due to financial concerns” McGurl said. “We are now in a place to add those enrichments back in.”

With three class sections of a projected 18 to 22 students in K-4 and 18-21 students in grades 5 and 6 in four sections, McGurl said there will still be enough attention for the children on an individual basis, despite public concern heard during the open public session.

“A benefit of this model is the reduction in section numbers will increase the frequency of supportive staff assistance and allow some teaching staff additional scheduled time to assist students,” McGurl said.

Thirteen tenure appointments were made at the board meeting, with a message of appreciation read by McGurl before presenting the individuals with a Granville Central School District mug.

“My view of tenure is simple. We can find average teachers with a degree of ease. We cannot, however, find educators as easily,” McGurl said. “These are the people who see the big picture. They set the bar high and give the assistance needed to get over it. They are the people who see value in what they do and pride in even the smallest of victories.”

McGurl’s “rock stars” who received tenure were Granville Elementary School principal Cara Talmadge, teachers Tiffany Duval, Jennifer Gaulin, Marie Kolodziejski, Adam Langworthy, Megan Lucia, Mikenzie Monroe, Jessica Stout, Keniston Sweet, Mikayla Wells, and teaching assistants Rebecca Monger, Christine Donaldson and Heather Meade.

McGurl also provided the board with an update on the contract negotiations for the four different associations with which the district has employment contracts.

They are the Southern Adirondack Substitute Teachers Alliance (SASTA), the Granville Support Staff Association (GSSA), the Granville Teachers Association (GTA), with these three being affiliated with the New York State United Teachers, and lastly the Granville Administrators Association (GAA) who are represented by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS).

The SASTA contract was successfully negotiated in 2020, resulting in an increase in the hourly wage by $1.00. This is currently in effect.

The GSSA contract is said by McGurl to be “making good progress with negotiations” despite COVID-19 getting in the middle of the process.

“We are currently working through a financial and insurance related item, but progress continues to be made on both fronts,” McGurl said. “I am hopeful that an equitable settlement is in the near future. Given the laws binding labor relations, I am unable to go into further detail at this time.”

As for the GTA, McGurl said negotiations over the last two years have stalled the progress on renewing a new contract.

The package presented to the GTA that would increase the salary schedule of teachers from step one to 26 and above was revealed to the board. Teachers on steps one through 25 would see an increase of 15.6% over the life of the contract, steps 25 through 26 with a 16.05% increase and 26-and-above with a 13.96% overall increase.

“In addition to the salary enhancements, the district has proposed a very low health insurance contribution from GTA members raising their take-home pay even further,” McGurl said. “The proposal asks for a two percent contribution from GTA members for an additional HRA health insurance plan and four percent for a two-person or family HRA health insurance plan. The district would also pay for two-thirds of the deductible for all GTA members.”

McGurl said that despite a response mentioned by GTA members in a Glens Falls newspaper published on March 22, numerous requests to hear back from the GTA were unanswered.

“Just prior to (apring) break, the GTA proposed that a smaller group from each side schedule meetings to attempt to resolve any remaining issues,” McGurl said. “I am hopeful that will take place as I have not heard back from the GTA confirming so. If it does, this could bring a positive result so that we can put this contract to rest and the teachers can begin seeing the benefit of this very generous contract offer.”

Lastly, the GAA’s contract expires at the end of the 2021 school year and awaits formal negotiations to begin so a timely resolution can be made although wants and needs on the board committee’s side have already been established.

A facilities use request of the football field, restrooms and concession stand has been made by Granville Youth Football board president Matthew James for its summer program. The decision has been tabled until May’s board meeting.

If passed, Granville Youth Football has decided it will follow all rules that the school follows. This means two spectators in attendance per athlete with contact tracing and temperature checks.

Recommendations made by McGurl to the board included the use of portable restrooms rather than using the facilities restrooms, a cleaning schedule for the concession stand and mats to be placed so the cleats don’t ruin the brand new track.