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The Pioneer Board of Education approved a general fund budget of $54,617,182, at its regular meeting on April 18.

The budget increases spending by 1.31 percent, while the property tax levy increase is at the state tax cap of 1.17 percent.

Assistant superintendent Nick Silvaroli said a number of factors helped shape the final budget, including state aid restored by the Legislature on April 9. He said that move resulted in an additional $294,561. He added that the district's assigned fund balance was increased by $15,000, resulting in a total revenue increase of $309,561.

Mr. Silvaroli said those measures were coupled with several staffing moves. These include a reduction in a full-time high school Chemistry position, as well as a 0.8 high school business position. Both will be accomplished through attrition, he added. 

The budget also calls for the addition of two full-time elementary literacy specialists (one for each K-4 building) to help with implementation of an Early Grade Literacy Plan. To do this, the district will reduce its number of pre-kindergarten sections from seven to six.  Mr. Silvaroli said these moves will save $131,533.

Still facing a $206,809 difference from the final enacted budget, Pioneer will reduce three full-time teacher assistant positions that were vacant, along with a full-time certified occupational therapy assistant post that was also open. Mr. Silvaroli said these measures, coupled with BOCES adjustments in special education and technology, helped narrow the final budget gap.

Although it is too early to project tax rates because each community has its own method of assessment, and because additional assessments have not been factored in, Mr. Silvaroli said a tax rate of $13.42 per $100,000 of valuation would result in a hypothetical $11 increase in a tax bill. Tax rates could decrease with additional assessments, he said.

Mr. Silvaroli said if voters turn down the budget during the May 16 vote, the board faces a choice of resubmitting the same proposal for a vote or instituting a contingent budget. Under that scenario, Pioneer would have to trim the tax levy by $144,824.

Mr. Silvaroli said the 2017-18 budget preserves the discretionary portion of the budget, as well as instructional and support staffing. The plan also: 
  • maintains reasonable class sizes and teacher-student loads
  • funds pre-kindergarten as well as high school academies in business, agriculture, and engineering
  • supports Career & Technical Education and foreign language education
  • preserves music, athletics, the Center for Positive Solutions, Advanced Placement courses and other elective courses
  • continues to pull back on the use of Assigned Fund Balance

Polling is Tuesday, May 16, from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Voters will also elect two board members from a slate of four candidates.