Rhinebeck school budget increases 2.9%

District looking to add 2 faculty positions

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The Rhinebeck Central School District Board of Education has approved a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that increases the district’s property tax levy by nearly 2.9 percent.

The proposal, which stays within the maximum allowable tax increase under state law, was passed by the board unanimously on April 23. There was little discussion and no debate before the vote.

In total, the district plans to spend $30,283,742, which including tax funds and state aid. The tax rate of 2.9 percent translates to $15.27 per $1,000 of assessed property value, according to Assistant Superintendent Tom Burnell. That means the owner of a $200,000 home will pay $3,054 in school taxes.

Though the budget does stay under the tax cap, overall spending will increase by approximately 3.5 percent in the district. And the district, unlike many across the state, will actually be adding to its faculty in the next year. Burnell said Rhinebeck is looking to add an assistant principal as well as a K-12 technology director.

Burnell said the district was able to afford to maintain and expand its current programs because of a $234,000 increase in state aid from the previous year, as well as its own reserves. Burnell also said that typically the board plans to actually expend 96 percent to 97 percent of what is budgeted for — leaving a small cushion for safety — but this year number has increased to about 98 percent.

“This is the last year” the district will be able to use its fund balances in such a way, Burnell said. “This is our last hurrah.”

Superintendent Joseph Phelan noted that although the budget is approved, every expenditure has not yet been decided.

“The board is adopting a budget which is an amount of money. There is latitude within that amount of money to various things in the coming school year,” Phelan said. “It’s a roadmap, but it’s not necessarily a streamline between point A and point B.”

“I want to commend everybody who was involved in this process,” said board member Lisa Rosenthal.

“I thought that everyone did a really professional, thoughtful job analyzing what was quite a complex process between financial issues, curricular issues,” she added. ” I think the budget that we are recommending is as good a budget we ever could have hoped for considering the financial circumstances for the district.”

The budget goes to the voters on May 21, and they will also decide on candidates for the three open seats on the district’s board of education.

Four candidates are vying for the three seats. Rosenthal will be the only incumbent running for re-election, with Deirdre d’Albertis, Ali Hammoud, and Laura Schulkin seeking election for the first time.

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