Spending plan includes funding for 25 positions
The Huntington school board voted to adopt a $120.3 million proposed 2015-16 budget that funds nearly 25 additional positions, including a new high school assistant principal, as well as two additional soccer teams at J. Taylor Finley Middle School.
Board members adopted the spending plan at a meeting on Monday night, but not without lengthy discussion on one last-minute budget amendment to add girls and boys soccer teams to Finley. A majority of board members were in favor of including about $38,000 in funding for the two teams, something for which some parents have been clamoring. However, board President Emily Rogan and Vice President Jennifer Hebert were against the move. The pair said they felt the money could better benefit students in other ways, like funding a full-time primary school librarian, an additional psychologist at the high school or putting the money toward robotics.
“While I am a big supporter of sports … I don’t necessarily think that adding another soccer team to the middle school is going to reach as many kids as some of the other things we’ve talked about,” Rogan said.
In the end, trustees Tom DiGiacomo, Bill Dwyer, Xavier Palacios and Bari Fehrs supported adding the teams. DiGiacomo said parents have long been requesting the teams.
“This is not an anomaly,” he said. “This is something that has been in the conversation for several years now.”
The 25 additional positions are a mix of instructional, noninstructional, administrative and contingency staff, Superintendent Jim Polansky said in an interview on Wednesday morning. The superintendent said 11.7 positions are instructional and six are noninstructional, the latter including some teachers’ aides. The number also includes the addition of a new high school assistant principal position, a district Science, Engineering, Technology and Math, also known as STEM, coach and five contingency positions. Contingency positions are included in the budget in case they’re needed based on enrollment or other factors.
In Monday night’s budget presentation, Polanksy unveiled the district’s state aid figures. The district will be getting an additional nearly $1.5 million in aid from the state next year, bringing the total to about $14.1 million.
The aid will allow the district to pay for five contingency positions, at a cost of $352,275, the high school assistant principal at $193,859 and the district STEM coach at $89,361. Those costs include salary and benefits, according to Polansky’s presentation.
An additional assistant principal is needed to assist with managing the 1,400-student high school and collecting data on teachers. Polansky said currently, two administrators oversee operations there, and if one student is having a bad day, an administrator could spend an entire day working on the issue, leaving the high school in the hands of one administrator.
If approved by voters on May 19, the budget would increase by 2.36 percent over this year’s spending plan, from $117.6 million to $120.3 million. The budget stays within a state-mandated cap on property tax levy increase. For the average resident with a home assessed at $3,622, taxes would increase next year by about $184.
The budget also includes a proposition asking voters to allow the district to spend just over $1 million in capital monies it already has in reserve to pay for state-approved projects.
The school board budget hearing is on May 11, and the budget vote and trustee election are on May 19.