By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
On the last day allowed by state law, the Grand Island Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a 2018-19 budget of $62,481,712 Tuesday.
Though the operating budget declines $157,309 from the 2017-18 figure, the anticipated tax levy of $33,463,153 is an increase of $336,760, or 1.02 percent. The estimated tax rate will rise from $19.38 to $19.57 of $1,000 of assessed valuation, a change of 1.01 percent. A typical house assessed at $180,000 would receive a tax bill $29.25 more than last year.
"We don't have as much building aid as we had in the prior years," Interim Superintendent for Business and Finance Richard Hitzges said in explaining why the budget would decline but the tax levy would increase. Hitzges said that state aid other than building aid went up 2.05 percent, from $15,168,214 to $15,478,433; trustee Glenn Bobeck pointed out aggregate state aid went down when including building aid.
Building aid for a retired bond on the $51 million capital project went down $2.4 million, which Hitzges said, "skewed the relationship among different types of revenue."
A public hearing on the budget will take place Monday, May 7, and the budget vote will take place Tuesday, May 15.
Hitzges said the budget includes up to $35,000 for security cameras, $25,000 for security film on windows, and $14,000 for check-in system for visitors; and funding for air conditioning the information technology closets where servers and switches are located, "the backbone of communication in our system."
Class sizes are "almost exactly the way it is this year," Hitzges said. There's been no reduction in the student programs, with some programs offered off-site moving back to campus.
New SROs Introduced
The board met Frank McNamara and Michael Paternostro, who were recently hired as part-time school resource officers for the district.
Paternostro is a 28-year veteran of the Kenmore Police, while McNamara is 23-year veteran of the Town of Tonawanda Police.
The district received a grant from the office of State Sen. Chris Jacobs to fund an SRO position. Both men, who are retired, will work through the Grand Island Police Department. They were chosen from among several candidates after being interviewed.
"It was wonderful to be part of the interview team - a collaborative effort of our town leadership, school district leadership, and our police department," said Councilwoman Jennifer Baney, who interviewed candidates for the town. "Many people throughout the community had been asking us to get qualified SROs in place using the grant money received. Officers McNamara and Paternostro each bring a unique, essential skill set to the table, and we are thankful for their willingness to serve our community in such an important way. I'm also grateful that the timing of our hiring and the county SRO training school lined up in such a way, that the gentleman have been hired, trained, and begun the important work for the district."
District Clerk Jude Kuehne announced three candidates had submitted petitions to run for three seats on the Board of Education in the May 17 trustee election.
Incumbents Joy LaMarca and Bobeck and newcomer Robin McCreary will run for seats on the board. Rich D'Agostino decided not to seek another three-year term.