Rhinebeck school budget process gets underway

An unusually early first draft of next year’s school budget was outlined at the Rhinebeck school board meeting Jan. 14.

Superintendent of Rhinebeck Schools Joe Phelan told the educators and audience that the 2014-15 budget would mirror last year’s with “extended tweaking.”

The first draft shows an increase of just under $1 million, which is a 3.29 percent increase over last year, bringing the total expenditures to $31,279,945.

Last year’s budget was $30,283,742 and had an expenditure increase of 3.5 percent over the previous year’s budget.

Phelan noted that the unusually early timing of the first budget draft gives the board and the public time to ask questions. But, he added, it also entails lots of guess-work as specifics continue to roll in.

“We’re ballparking it this early in the process,” he said.

Among the proposed increases is summer curriculum development, which is budgeted for $30,000 more next year, for a total of $75,000. Assistant Superintendent Tom Burnell explained that summer curriculum writing has become an extensive process because of the state’s Common Core standard.

There are also one or two mysteries in the budget.

The high school physical education department has asked for $33,500 for equipment, which is almost double last year’s expenditures. The high school has also requested $11,000 that Burnell could not explain. Specifics are still rolling in, he said.

One place the board is trying to cut costs is with textbooks. The cost of textbooks saw an almost 9 percent increase this year, bringing the total to over $100,000. The district is attempting to buy next year’s textbooks soon, with leftover money in this year’s budget. But Burnell said that could be a problem because many of the textbooks that are needed aren’t available.

Conference travel — at $5,500 for the high school, $2,600 for the middle school, and $4,000 for the board — is $12,100, which is almost double last year’s budget.

And, at this point, the overall school instruction budget, which encompasses all salaries and materials related to education, would increase 1.2 percent, to $8,976,820.

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