• April 5, 2024


    Dear Friends of the New Paltz Central School District,

    I am pleased to announce that at the school board meeting on Wednesday night, the Board adopted a budget for the 2024-2025 school year and they authorized a small capital project to be presented to the voters.  Community members will have a chance to vote on both of these items during the annual budget vote on May 21st.  Here is a brief update on these items as well as on other things going on in the district:

    The Board Adopts a $73,520,671 Budget

    Creating the budget was very challenging.  The School Board made tough decisions that reduced over $2,000,000 from our original budget projection. While difficult decisions were made, decreasing enrollment allowed us to make reductions that, while they may require us to change the way we do things, will preserve all educational programs.

    As you may recall from my last update, the state budget, which was due April 1st, has the potential to increase our state aid by a small amount.  In March, the board looked at the three possibilities and agreed to follow one of these plans depending on what the state budget ultimately provides:


    Since the state has missed the April 1st deadline and we don’t know when the budget will come out, we still do not know which of these plans will ultimately be followed.  However, since the budget for all three options is the same, $73,520,671, the board was in a position on Wednesday night to officially adopt this budget.  While the amount of fund balance we use to support the budget might change, on May 21 the ballot will ask you to vote for or against the use of $73,520,671 to fund the school for the 2024-2025 school year.

    If you are interested in the line by line details of the proposed budget you can look at the preliminary roll over budget of $75,506,639 that we originally started with and the final adopted budget of $73,520,671 that we will now bring to the voters.

    It is important for voters to understand that this is not a truly balanced budget.  Even with the reductions we will still need to use over $2,000,000 of fund balance (savings) to pay our bills.



    $2,000,000 Capital Project

    Another significant decision made on Wednesday night was related to a proposed capital project.  As you may know, there has been much discussion in recent months about a large capital project that would include necessary repairs, an upgrade to sports facilities, and perhaps even a swimming pool.  That capital project is still under consideration and is being studied and refined by the district facilities committee.  That capital project will not be brought to voters until December at the earliest.

    The capital project proposal adopted by the board on Wednesday night would simply be a measure to quickly make available funds previously held in reserve for projects that need immediate attention.

    This capital project is different from most capital projects because it is quite small and because we already have the money to pay for it.  We will not have to borrow money to pay for it as is usually the case.  On May 21st voters will have the opportunity to vote to allow the district to use or not use this $2,000,000 of reserve funds to make these repairs.

    Planning for the Future

    The last two budget procedures have not been easy.  We have been experiencing a difficult situation because of many factors including the repercussions of COVID, reduced student enrollment, increased costs (including skyrocketing health care), reduced state aid, and the end of the American Rescue Plan grant which has been propping up our budget for the last three years.

    Some of these factors will not be present next year and some of them will be present.  It is impossible for us to say at this point exactly what the future holds, but I think it is safe to say that we are in a better financial position now than we were two years ago.  We anticipate next year’s budget process will be challenging, but probably not to the extent of the last two years.

    The school board is aware of the stress and disappointment caused by the last two budget processes.  Valued employees have lost their jobs and this is regrettable.  Knowing that uncertainty is a large part of the problem, the Board has committed to creating a 5 year fiscal plan for the district that should enable us to better predict what our revenue and expenses will be from year to year.  Efforts to begin planning for the 2025-2026 school year and beyond will begin soon after the budget vote.  We will keep you updated on our progress.


    I am a firm believer that American students are the best in the world and I have enjoyed working with them and seeing them accomplish great things throughout my long career in education.  However, I don’t think American schools hold a monopoly on success and I think we have a lot to learn from experiencing how other people and countries do things.

    I have had the opportunity to study other educational systems.  Long ago I spent a year teaching science as a Fulbright exchange teacher in England.  In 2014 I participated in an administrator exchange program in China.

    Finland is regarded by many as having one of the highest quality education systems in the world, and this has been the case for many years.  From April 15 to April 19 I will be joining a group of educators for a trip to Finland organized by the Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES.  

    While in Finland, we will be touring Finnish elementary, middle, and high schools.  We will be meeting with education officials to discuss the Finnish education system and to learn about what makes them successful.  I look forward to learning as much as I can and bringing back ideas to our district.  If you or anyone you know have any questions you would like me to ask or avenues you would like me to explore while I am there please send me an email.  I will also reach out to all of the educators in our district to let them know I am available to meet with our students before, during (via zoom) or after the trip to help our students learn about life and education in another country. If community organizations would like me to speak with them about life and education in Finland, I am available.

    At this point you may be thinking that a trip to Finland must be very expensive and might not be appropriate when the district is going through such a difficult financial time.  I acknowledge the challenging optics of the timing, but professional development for all employees is very important, even for the Superintendent.  So, I want to make it clear to everyone that I will personally be paying for the entire trip, including airfare, lodging, meals, transportation, and other fees.  There will be no expense at all to the district.

    I look forward to reporting back to you on what I learned during the trip.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

    Pre-K and Kindergarten enrollment

    One of the highlights of the past week was the Kindergarten reception and the Pre-K information night held at Duzine.  I offer my compliments to Principal Hogan and the dedicated staff members who made both events successful.  I appreciate all of the parents who came out and fully participated in the event.  It was great to get a glimpse of some of our newest students.

    In the interest of planning ahead, the district benefits by having as accurate an estimate as possible of the number of students who will be attending pre-K and Kindergarten in the fall.  Thank you to those parents who have already registered their children for next year.  If you have not registered your child but you intend to do so, we would greatly appreciate it if you would do so as soon as possible.  For more information on how to register your child, please go to our pre-K and Kindergarten registration page.

    Thank you all for reading.  I appreciate your support during the budget process and as we move forward with the rest of the 2023-2024 school year.  Please enjoy the long three day weekend as school will not be in session on April 8th.  Enjoy the eclipse, but remember to stay safe and wear your protective glasses.  Hopefully, we will also have a weekend without earthquakes.


    Stephen Gratto - Superintendent