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Sherman Budget To Increase Taxes 3%

SHERMAN — The Sherman Central School Board has approved a proposed 2021-22 budget of $10,638,560 that includes a 3.07% increase in the property tax rate.

The estimated tax levy of $2,804,823 includes an increase of $358,226. The 3.07% increase means residents — if approved by voters — will pay $15.90 per thousand dollars of assessed property value, or an increase of 48 cents per thousand.

“This has been the most difficult budget cycle we have experienced,” said Michael Ginestre, Sherman superintendent. “At one point, you are down 20% and then the state is giving you your foundation aid back.”

Ginestre emphasized that “nothing is certain,” at this point.

“Federal money is coming but we don’t know what strings are attached,” he said. “This year it’s very hard to predict . . . We are hoping that next year we have a much better sense of where we are.”

Board members debated how much the district should increase the tax rate. The 3.07% increase is less than the tax cap of 3.15% for the district.

“None of us want to raise taxes,” said board member Teresa Guzman. “But the rate is still lower than the tax rate two years ago.”

Ginestre said the decision was based on long-term planning for the district and it is important to keep the reserves intact.

“We are still in that rainy day mode,” he said. “I think this will be the first time in my five years that we did not dip into our reserves.”

Kimberly Oehlbeck, school business administrator, in presenting the budget to the board, noted that certain reimbursements have not come through.

“I haven’t heard anything on FEMA money,” she said.

Several board members mentioned that the increase in the tax levy in last year’s budget was much less than it might have been. Board member Tim Sears emphasized that the board acted properly given the climate at the time.

“We were not too conservative last year,” he said. “We did exactly what we should have done.”

In other business, Sherman parent Cindy Sears addressed the board during public comment on behalf of parents of seniors. She asked what is being done about prom this year.

Ginestre responded that he recently met with junior advisors Corey Emory and Joel Fisher about that issue. He noted that they are going to meet with the senior class to discuss prom.

“From Day 1 we have been open about having prom,” Ginestre said. “Remember, the administration has never planned prom; it’s always been the kids.”

Sherman Principal Ann Morrison said that the problem is the plethora of guidelines from the state regarding prom.

“Finding a venue is nearly impossible,” she said. “Places do not want to be liable in light of all the state restrictions.”

Morrison said the seniors would like to have everything as normal as possible.

“Some kids think neighboring districts are having normal proms,” she said. “But it is not true.”

Another difficulty is scheduling, in light of the fact that all of the spring sports fall in June, Morrison said.

“We are trying to solidify all of these dates by the end of this month so we can make a timetable,” she said.

Ginestre noted that the spring sports schedule is also making it difficult to nail down a date for graduation.

“We are monitoring very closely our graduation date because of sectional finals in sports,” he said. “We are considering moving it up to the 17th, but we really don’t know yet.”

As far as the format for graduation, Ginestre said the guidelines from the governor’s office offer a lot of options. However, the best option for Sherman is to hold a 200-person outside event, “similar to what we did last year,” he said.

Ginestre also reviewed the end-of-the-year calendar, which most districts have been forced to revise because there are no Regents Exams this year. All contractual obligations will be met, he said, so a few changes must be made. Ginestre told the board that on Wednesday, June 16, classes will end for seventh through 12th grades and the last day for the elementary students will be Wednesday, June 23. June 25 is the last day for teachers, he added.

In a related matter, Morrison reported on iREady test results, noting that the at-risk students in reading went from 32% to 17%.

“Everybody has improved greatly in reading over the course of the school year,” she said.

Furthermore, those students who are proficient in math went from 18% to 45% and the at-risk went from 30% to 11%.

“I think we’ve been making huge gains and starting to close the gap,” she said. “All the hard work and the collaboration that has been going on this year has really been making an impact on our students.”

Morrison said that the iReady data is only one measure of student improvement, but she finds it encouraging.

“I know it’s a snapshot but I believe it’s valid data,” she said.

Morrison reminded the board that the district is in the midst of state testing for third through eighth grades and “we’ve gone from a two-day test down to a one-day test.”

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