Superintendent's Message: Budget Advances Key Supports for Students

  • I would like to thank the Midlakes community for its patience and perseverance in navigating another unusual school year. While 2021-2022 has seen many changes for the better, we appreciate how our students, staff, families, and community have adapted to the challenges of the past two years.

    As we look forward to what we hope will be a more “normal” 2022-2023 school year, the District is pleased to present a budget that advances important instructional and social-emotional supports for our students while responding to unique financial challenges. These challenges have required careful planning to maximize the use of state and federal revenues and District reserves to minimize the tax burden on our community. The proposed budget includes a tax levy increase of 2%, which is less than half of the District’s legal tax levy limit of 4.15%.

    While we are pleased that New York State has continued the process of fully funding Foundation Aid, which was underfunded for many years, other factors have limited the positive impact of this change. A substantial portion of the District’s Foundation Aid increase is offset by escalating healthcare costs and rising prices for fuel, utilities, equipment, and supplies. These projected increases, which are outside the District’s control, have influenced our spending plan for 2022-2023.

    Federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus funds allocated to the District last year will continue to support significant investments in instructional and social-emotional supports for our students for the next two years. These funds enabled us to add positions to close achievement gaps, lower class sizes, and supports for our students. Since the federal funds are allocated over multiple years, we can finance these positions without immediately impacting our annual budget.

    Aided by federal funds, we are able to use the proposed 2022-2023 school budget to address other critical needs. This budget includes funding increases for equipment and supplies to keep up with rising utility and operational costs. 

    The budget also includes the addition of a laborer/night supervisor to ensure appropriate staffing to clean our buildings and maintain a safe and healthy environment.

    The District is also carrying forward $125,000 in surplus revenue from the 2021-2022 budget to purchase a backhoe with a 14-foot plow. Conservative spending during the current budget cycle has made it possible to fund this purchase without impacting our tax levy or reserves. The backhoe will assist with snow removal as we add a staff parking lot behind the Elementary School through the current capital project. It will also be used to maintain our retention pond and the drainage ditches that channel runoff water. This investment will support proper drainage and improve the condition of our athletic fields and green spaces throughout the campus. 

    The proposed budget also includes the addition of a computer services position to further support our 1:1 student device initiative, classroom technology, and increased cybersecurity protocols. The District seeks to expand student, staff, and family access to technological assistance to support our extensive use of instructional technology.

    Finally, the proposed budget includes a more stable approach to providing student behavioral support, social-emotional support, and effective implementation of our Special Education program. 

    For years, the District has used “Teachers on Special Assignment” (TOSA) to serve as Deans of Students and assistants to the Committee on Special Education. Often, these positions were filled by teachers pursuing administrative certification. Recently, fewer teachers are interested in these TOSA positions, making the model difficult to sustain.

    The District is proposing to replace the two TOSA Dean positions with two ten-month Administrative Deans. These probationary positions will provide more predictable student support from year to year. Since the TOSA Dean positions are in the current budget, the transition to ten-month Administrative Deans results in only a slight cost increase. 

    Likewise, we are proposing the addition of a school psychologist position, replacing the TOSA CSE assistant position and enabling us to reassign one of our veteran psychologists as District Psychologist/CSE Chairperson. 

    This change will provide stable leadership of the CSE process, enhance district-level support for student social-emotional interventions, and enable the Director of Special Programs to focus on instructional and programmatic leadership to improve student academic outcomes. Since the TOSA CSE assistant position is in the current budget, the transition to an additional school psychologist provides a more stable approach with no budgetary impact.

    We are confident the 2022-2023 proposed budget meets the needs of our students and community in a fiscally responsible manner. We have been strategic in structuring new and existing positions in a way to improve District operations while keeping costs under control. 

    The 2% tax levy increase needed to support this spending plan falls far below the current rate of inflation. We will always look for ways to meet student needs while being mindful of the impact on our community.

    Thank you for your continued support of all
    Midlakes students. 

    — Matt Sickles, Superintendent