Tuition on the Agenda as Budget Season Approaches
In the Haldane School District’s Merritt Building, the Haldane School Board conducted its December 7 meeting before a small audience. The evening’s special presentation concerned the district’s tuition policy for students who come from outside the district—students from St. Basil’s school, and those from the Garrison School who choose to attend Haldane rather than O’Neill High School. Foster care students are also part of the mix.
For Haldane, tuition revenues are a much bigger part of district’s annual income than for most high schools (between 70 and 80 students are on tuition this year) because of its unique relationship with the Garrison district, which has no high school.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Villanti explained that since tuition revenue forecasting is part of the annual budget, he wanted to raise the topic now, before the 2011-12 budget planning process kicks off in earnest after the first of the year.
The current tuition formula is based on last year’s rate plus the lesser of the percentage increase of either the prior year’s budget-to-budget increase or the prior year’s school tax rate for the Town of Philipstown. The rate for regular (as opposed to special education) students in 2009-10 was $12,065 and for 2010-11 it is $12,290. Tuition is billed twice a year to both Garrison and St. Basil’s.
Typically these tuition fees are paid for by the district in which the student resides. But Garrison and St. Basil’s are currently embroiled in an already lengthy legal conflict over who should pay for the education of students from St. Basil’s, whose families normally reside outside of Philipstown.
Villanti said that Haldane currently has “a space problem more than a staffing problem. …We haven’t added any staff as a result of any tuition students,” but “another 20 to 30 students could have a significant impact,” he said.
“It’s a win-win…It’s additional revenue,” board president Dave Merandy said.
Districts are entitled to establish their own rates. Merandy said that once the population of tuition students reaches the “tipping point,” at which staffing would have to be increased, the board should be advised, because then, “it’s a different discussion.”
Over the past five years or so, the number of Garrison students going to Haldane has increased to the point that about two-thirds of Garrison students are now choosing Haldane over O’Neill, Villanti said. “With the loss of state aid we’re going to have to pay more attention to the size of our budget,” he added. “One of the things that just drives me crazy,” Villanti admitted, is not knowing what revenues will come from the State of New York each year until after the school budget has been crafted
Board vice president Joe Curto said he would like to see more sharing of services between neighboring districts in areas such as technology. Villanti replied that the districts are already collaborating in the areas of staff development, athletics, and (more informally) on transportation issues and that he is open to much more collaboration.
The discussion around the Highland Valley development on Route 9 in Fishkill, but part of the Haldane school district, is still on hold, pending the receipt of paperwork from the developer.
On December 21 there will be a meeting in the Haldane Music Room for a town-wide discussion about athletic fields. The Board wants to take a “systems view” of field upkeep and usage, with all of the groups in town who use the fields represented,” including Village and Town board and recreation representatives, and members of all of the various recreational sports associations who also use fields. This is intended to be an open forum and all interested parties are encouraged to attend.
In other news, high school students made a reciprocal visit last week to the Bronx School of Law and Finance and students held a toy drive to benefit the Sound Shore Medical Center. Villanti praised the talent and energy of the community in describing both the Lions Club “Philipstown’s Got Talent” show that was held at Haldane in November, and the high school’s recent production of The Man who Came to Dinner.
In addition to Villanti, Merandy, and Curto, Trustees Gillian Thorpe and Michael Junjulas were present, along with Business Manager Anne M. Dinio. Trustee Evan Schwarz was absent.