Red Hook educators start new budget process

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Red Hook educators discussed three parts of the 2014-2015 budget at the Jan. 9 board of education meeting.

The three points of financial focus were: special education, technology, and athletics.

Phys. Ed teacher Tom Cassata outlined the athletics budget, which has a requested total of $192,800, roughly a 1 percent increase over this year’s budget of $190,900.

The increase is needed to pay for equipment repairs, like sending football and lacrosse helmets away annually to be inspected for safety purposes, he told the board.

The athletics budget covers 39 sports teams, in grades 7-12, with more than 800 student athletes who play approximately 550 games and matches a year, he added.

Cassata also noted that many students and their parents have inquired about starting a swim team, which he said the athletics department and school board should consider. He estimated the cost for each team (boys’ team and girls’ team) would be roughly $12,000 to $15,000 a year, which includes transportation and fees to rent a pool.

Joe DeCaro, Director of Pupil Personnel Services, presented the special education budget requests. He said that as of Dec. 1, there are 254 special education students, and that higher learning expectations from the state translate into higher costs. However, DeCaro’s proposed budget of $1,999,800 is the exact same amount as last year’s.

The technology budget was presented by Donna Seelbach, who pointed out that her department has a total of 900 computers and 62 Apple IOS devices, and that Red Hook is the only school in Dutchess County that gives every teacher a laptop to take home.

The total technology budget is the same as last year: $206,010 and the public information budget is also the same: $21,000.

Seelbach also spoke about the possibility of creating a “bring your own device” system for students to bring their own devices to school with them to use for educational reasons.

During the meeting’s public comment section, resident and parent Maggie Rothwell spoke of her concerns about the technology used in school.

Her son was given an iPad by the high school when he was a student there, she said, and it created a world of distraction because he focused on the iPad more than what was in front of him.

“I’ve talked to basically any teacher who will listen to me about the rampant cheating in the school, much of which is done through technology,” she added. “It reaches a whole new level when you’re texting answers to each other. It reaches a whole new level when you are taking pictures of tests,” she said. “The phones are there.”

The board members said they would look into the issue.

School district business administrator Bruce Martin told the Observer that these budget items are just a small part of the overall budget, which last year was $48,407,621.

“Keep in mind that the number includes supplies, materials, equipment, and contractual costs only and does not include personnel,” Martin said, adding that a large portion of the rest of the budget is made up of personnel, health insurance, and retirement.

Key teachers will continue to present their facets of the budget to the board through March, after which the final proposition will be devised for the budget vote in May.

The next meeting is on Feb. 12, at 7pm in the elementary school library.

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