• March 10, 2024


    Dear Parents, Students, Faculty, Staff, and Community Members,


    Last week was quite a week where activities ranged from very enjoyable, such as the annual High School Scholarship Concert on Tuesday or Friday’s MS School of Rock Assembly, to the incredibly difficult budget meeting on Wednesday night. This gives us plenty to discuss, so let’s get started.


    Musical Excellence


    Tuesday night’s HS Scholarship Concert was really outstanding.  Choral and band presentations were impressive and a couple of songs from the upcoming Guys and Dolls production certainly got people interested in seeing the play.



    Congratulations to all of these extraordinary musicians and their teachers.


    On Friday, our MS School of Rock Club performed in an assembly at the Middle School.  They rocked the house as usual. 


    Theater season in full swing


    Hopefully you got a chance to see the middle school production of the Addams Family.  The students put on an outstanding show with a large and talented cast.


    The annual High School Musical is coming up as well.  You won’t want to miss Guys and Dolls.



    Winter sports end, spring sports begin


    I won’t attempt to mention all of the great accomplishments of our winter athletes because I would surely leave out some important people.  On behalf of the school, I would like to thank all of our athletes for all of their hard work  and for all of the great events that we spectators got to watch over the last couple of months.  Congratulations to our senior athletes for great careers.  Thank you coaches, staff, parents, and spectators who supported our athletes all along the way.  We look forward to seeing our athletes compete again soon.  Really soon, in fact, since JV and Varsity spring sports start on Monday March 11, and Modified sports start on March 18.  For all sports related information please visit our athletics webpage.


    The School Newspaper

    Our high school journalists have put out their latest issue of our school newspaper, the Maroon.  This publication contains a lot of good information and our students demonstrated some quality interviewing and writing skills in their work.  

    I encourage you to check out the Maroon to learn more about what is going on.  In particular, the front page is dedicated to our budgetary challenges, which is a segue into our next topic of discussion.

    Wednesday Night’s School Board Meeting

    The meeting on Wednesday night was very well attended.  This was not a surprise because the two main topics of conversion were a presentation from our architectural firm on items related to a proposed capital project.and a presentation on the 2024-2025 school budget.

    You can see footage of the entire 5 plus hours of the board meeting by going to this link

    March 6, 2024 School Board Meeting


    Running for the School Board?

    If you are interested in running for a vacant school board seat in the upcoming election this May, packets can be found here:  Running for the NPCSD Board. More generic information put out by the New York School Boards Association might be also be useful to you: Running for the School Board 

    Nominating Petitions are due in the office of the District Clerk located at 1 Eugene L. Brown Drive, New Paltz, NY, by Monday, April 22, 2024, 5:00 PM. 

    Proposed Capital Project Information

    The school board is in the early stages of considering a capital project.  It is not anticipated that a vote on a capital project would take place until autumn at the earliest.   If you are interested in seeing the presentation by H2M, our new architect, you can go to the 4:02 mark of the board meeting video.  No one will be surprised to learn that our buildings are old and they need some attention.  

    In addition to the necessities, many people have come out and spoken about the need to update our athletic facilities;  H2M gave a rough estimate overview of the cost of three possible capital project proposals:

    These costs are ranked by priorities.  There are many things that need attention right away, and other things that can wait.  Here is a building by building breakdown of the items listed as priority 1, 2, and 3.

    High School 

    Middle School



    Bus Garage

    The Budget Discussion

    Although the budget discussions at the Wednesday night meeting were in no way enjoyable, I was very impressed by how well the process worked.  Lots of people who felt passionately about the issues came out and spoke during the public comment portions of the meeting.  You can hear the first public comment session at the 22:21 mark of the meeting.  You can hear the second public comment session at the 1:21:40 mark of the meeting.  Many people who could not make the meeting sent their comments in advance via email and the school board read every one of them.

    The board appreciated the comments, especially those from the students.  While they were not all easy to hear, it was great to see so many people show such passion and support for our school.  

    The actual budget presentation can be found at the 1:53:20 point of the meeting.  While you watch it, I encourage you to keep the slide show handy because it is hard to see on the screen.  The Slide Show can be accessed by clicking on this link.

    At this point, I would like to make a few comments and answer a few questions that will help summarize the current budget situation.


    Using Fund Balance

    The school district has a modest amount of savings.  $9,936,193 of savings is in no way a large amount compared to a budget of over $73,000,000.  It is not good to be without savings and it is bad practice to use savings to pay for ongoing expenses.

    Having said that, our need to balance the budget and to make necessary repairs to our facilities makes it an appropriate time to break into the fund balance.  For that reason, we proposed to the school board that they use 42 % of the fund balance to implement the following plan:


    The school board recognized the need to put a significant amount of savings toward necessary safety repairs and toward balancing the budget.  The board agreed that we should implement this plan.  Therefore, in May, the voters will not only be able to cast a vote in support of or against a proposed budget, but they will also be asked to approve moving $2,000,000 to the capital fund and to allow the school to use that $2,000,000 to upgrade an elevator in the Middle School and fire alarm systems in Duzine and the High School.

    The Revenue Picture

    Most of the money we take in to run the school comes from our tax payers.  A much smaller amount of money comes from the state.  This year we anticipate that the tax levy will increase by 3.63%, bringing in an extra $1,726,000.  This sounds like a lot of money, but with the prices of everything going up (Health insurance for employees is expected to go up by $1,400,000 this year), an increase of $1,726,000 isn’t what it used to be.

    Probably you have heard that the Governor’s proposed budget would give many schools less money next year than they got this year.  In fact, NPCSD is projected to get $414,000 less than last year.  While it is possible that the legislative budget will give some money back to schools, it is very unlikely that we will have definite confirmation of any increases before our 2024-2025 budget is approved.  Therefore, any state aid that comes in later will not be able to be spent in 2024-2025.

    Here is our anticipated revenue picture for 2024-2025, including the fund balance we plan to add to the picture:

    Once again, I think it is appropriate to thank the taxpayers for providing such a huge portion of the $73,405,671 that we will use to fund the school in 2024-2025.


    In order to create a proposed budget for 2024-2025 we took all of the expenses and positions from 2023-2024 and rolled them over.  We then looked at every line item in the budget to see where we could decrease expenses and where we had to increase expenses.  Some information was known, such as salary increases in existing collective bargaining agreements and a lot of information was estimated, such as the amount of money we will have to spend on fuel oil or snow removal next year.

    If you would like to see this line by line budget, you can click here Line by Line 2024-2025 proposed budget  There is a lot of information in this document and it can be pretty complicated.  If you have questions, please send me an email with your questions and we will get you an answer.

    One thing that greatly increased our expenses was the fact that the American Rescue Plan grant, federal monies that have been supporting positions in our district for the past 3 or 4 years, ends in September 2024.  Therefore, we started out this budget process in a big hole as we had multiple existing positions that suddenly had their funding source dry up.

    So, the bottom line is that our anticipated expenses greatly exceed our anticipated revenue.


    How does decreasing student enrollment play into our deficit?

    The birth rate in New York State has declined a great amount in recent years.

    This trend is very evident in our school district:

    A broader look shows that staffing levels have not changed along with our student enrollment.

    Financial problems last school year precipitated efforts to save money by right sizing our staff to meet declining population.  12.6 positions were reduced last year and additional positions will need to be reduced this year to save the $2,100,000 by which we will be short.

    How will we balance the budget?

    Routine expenses have been cut in the proposed budget. However, the amount of expenses we can cut through everyday things does not really address the main issue.  Most of our large expenses are dedicated to staff salaries and benefits.  In particular, employee benefits alone,  including health insurance and retirement benefits, account for 30 % of our total budget.

    Reducing positions is painful but necessary.  A great deal of work has gone into identifying positions that can be eliminated without affecting our student offerings.  We have also taken advantage of vacant positions and anticipated retirements to minimize the number of current employees who will lose their jobs.  We believe that less than seven employees will actually have to be laid off with the proposed reductions.

    Here are the position reductions that were proposed and discussed at the board meeting:

    You might notice that these numbers, which include salaries and benefits, seem a bit random.  This is because they represent the salary and benefits budgeted for these positions in the proposed budget.  These numbers include the salary and benefits of the people who currently or last held these positions.  The pre-K savings might be smaller than you expected because the UPK grant pays our school $5,430 for each of the eighteen students.

    You may also notice that $1,694,978 is still significantly lower than the $2,100,000 we need to close the budget gap.  We plan to finance the remaining $406,000 by cutting other expenses from the line by line budget including such things such as $8,000 worth of calculators, up to $30,000 of planned facilities projects, money for classroom furniture and musical instrument repairs, and about $60,000 for special education students to be placed out of district.

    After the plan to balance the budget was presented, the board discussed all options at length.  They did a great job of debating the various issues, asking questions to get additional information, listening to each other's opinions, and proposing new ideas for consideration.  The board accepted most of the proposed reductions, but they will reserve final decisions until the next board meeting on March 20th.  Between now and March 20, they will be interested in continuing to hear input from the community.  

    In order to give people another way to provide feedback to the school board, the board would like to invite you to meet with them before the next board meeting:

    This will be strictly an opportunity for the community to give information to the board members.  The board members will not be able to respond to questions or give their opinions, but they will be happy to hear what you have to say.

    Please notice that the next board meeting, as well as coffee (or tea or hot chocolate) with the board will be held in the Middle School Auditorium.  This change is necessary to give everyone enough space to attend and to not interfere with the cast of Guys and Dolls during their final week of preparation before the big show.

    Are we cutting the Arts and Library?

    While all of our proposed reductions are difficult, the art and library programs in the elementary school have generated the most questions.  Therefore I would like to give you more detail on the decisions that have been made in these areas for this year and next year.

    Elementary schedules are complex.  You must ensure that there is appropriate time for students to enter into the day and deliberately form a community. You need to build in enough time for children to pack up at the end of the day -- and those time needs are  different based on the ages of the children. Additionally, students must have time for lunch and recess (sometimes extra recess), and the opportunity to have music, art, library classes, and physical education. Instruction in core content is obviously very important as well.  We must make sure that we have at least an hour for math instruction, ninety minutes for literacy (reading and writing) daily,  plus science and social studies. At Lenape, some of our students also have band, chorus, instrument lessons and Project Lead the Way that have to be scheduled.  

    That is a lot to fit in during our school days.  New York State requires that all elementary students in grades 1 through 6 receive 900 hours of instruction each year, (not counting travel time, recess, and lunch).  We are so close to not meeting these requirements that last year we had to change the passing time in the middle school from 4 minutes to 3 minutes to ensure that we met the limit for our sixth grade students.  This year, we had to decrease “extra recess” in Duzine by 5 minutes to ensure that all students will meet the 900 hour limit.  It is clear that we do not have a lot of extra time in our regular school days.

    In previous years, we scheduled the special area classes of music, art and physical education on a six-day cycle. Students would have three physical education classes and then one or two music and one or two art classes. Library occurred during other times. This allowed the teacher and librarian to sometimes collaborate on a variety of research activities. The benefits of that are obvious. The challenges are less obvious, but very real. The time taken to do this is 40 minutes that might be taken from core instruction of other subjects (as students would already have a 40-minute special on those days as well). 

    The larger challenge in the totality of the complexity of scheduling concerns students that have a need for greater support in reading or math instruction. For students we identify as needing more instruction, we must provide appropriate intervention services to help them master skills to be able to perform with the rest of the class. Reading and math intervention teachers were working with students based on the teacher -- when the teacher scheduled availability for that work to occur. As a result, we often had students grouped together in intervention groups that needed different skills to be supported at different levels of intensity. A fully functioning intervention system should group students based on their needs.Too many variables in the schedule makes that very difficult. Also, students must not miss core instruction to get intervention services. 

    When we began the 2023-2024 school year, we wanted to prioritize ensuring that we had enough daily time for a 90 minute literacy block, a 60 minute math block, science and social studies, and we wanted to ensure that we had deliberate grouping of our students who needed intervention services. 

    Those priorities drove the change at the beginning of this school year where we moved library classes into the special schedule.  As a result, at the beginning of this school year each elementary student had one special per day, 1 art class, 1 music class, 1 library class, and 3 PE classes in a six day cycle.

    There has been much misinformation spread around that we are cutting the art programs in the elementary buildings.  The truth is, we are not eliminating or reducing elementary specials.  Although we will likely be eliminating one art teacher, one librarian, and one PE teacher due to budgetary reasons, the remaining personnel will be able to teach all of the classes offered at the beginning of this year.  For example, an elementary art teacher has room in their schedule to teach six sections of elementary art per day.  In a six day cycle, an art teacher has time in their schedule to teach 36 elementary classes.  Since we have 32 sections of K-5 classes, we only need 32 classes in a six day cycle.  If we keep two art teachers in the elementary, we can offer 72 art classes but we only need 32.  In our situation where we need to cut over $2,000,000 out of our budget, we can’t afford to keep two art teachers who would each teach less than 3 classes per day.

    Final Thoughts on the Budget

    The Board and I appreciated people coming out and giving their thoughts on the budget.  While I agreed with most of the things that were said and I understood their perspectives, my perspectives are different than those of many.  Put simply, my job is to give the board the information they need to enable the school to stay open and offer quality programming. 

    You don’t have to look far to find a newspaper headline about a public school that is facing the same challenges we are.  For example, here are a couple of many:


    Newburgh’s proposed $365M school budget includes multimillion-dollar deficit

    Mar 01, 2024, 4:15pmUpdated on Mar 01, 2024     By: Blaise Gomez



    Amityville school district layoff plans: Total rises to 47


    16 FEB, 2024

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    On Monday, district officials said they would lay off the 32 teachers at the end of the school year in June, as they dealt with a budget deficit estimated at $3.6 million. Since then, the total number of projected layoffs has risen, as union leaders of various worker units were notified of district plans.

    Earlier, Nakia Wolfe, president of the district's teacher union, said teacher layoffs would affect about 10% of the district's total instructional staff of 320.

    Colleges are facing the same challenges:

    The New Paltz Central School District will not close.  We have a great school that is strong and vibrant with lots of community support.  However, I understand the pain that necessary reductions will cause.

    One of my three sons is in his second year as a music teacher at a NYS public school.  Recently, his Superintendent informed the entire staff that the financial situation is bad and some cuts will be necessary.  My son clearly does not have enough seniority to avoid being laid off if cuts to the music department are made.  I certainly hope that he does not lose his job, but I also realize that his school must make tough decisions to balance the budget in an educational system where schools are not provided with adequate funding from the state, they are limited by a 2 % tax cap, and they are faced with costs that keep increasing.

    I appreciate you reading this letter.  Once again I encourage you to contact me if you have questions.  There is often a lot of misinformation on social media and I want to make sure you have the opportunity to get all of your questions answered accurately.

    I hope to see you on Wednesday, March 20th in the MS auditorium at 5:30 pm for Coffee (or tea or hot chocolate) With The Board Members and/or at 6:30 pm for the next board meeting.  I have great confidence that your school board will make the best decisions possible and will approve a balanced budget that preserves all educational programs for our students.



    Stephen Gratto - Superintendent