School tax increase lowered to 2.5%, proposed budget includes funds for Covid-19 learning issues


The Pelham Union Free School District’s 2021-22 budget would increase taxes 2.5%, a reduction from the proposed 3.31% made during Wednesday’s board of education meeting. Use of an additional $550,000 from the debt service fund allowed for the cut.

“This seems like a very responsible use of that money,” said Board President Jessica DeDomenico.

The total budget is set to be $80.3 million, with $800,000 in state aid allocated to “reduce the district’s reliance on the fund balance as a revenue in the budget, providing more stability in the budget for future years,” said an email from the Pelham Union Free School District on the budget.

The budget includes funds to aid students in recovering from learning losses that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic and to provide other Covid-19 support. That funding is coming from the federal pandemic rescue legislation and is one-time-only aid. The district is still awaiting confirmation on the guidelines of how the funds can be used, as it cannot be incorporated into the regular operating budget.

The district will be receiving total state and federal aid of $1.6 million for next school year.

In the 2021-22 budget, capital spending will go to the construction of Hutchinson School, as well as “the new turf field/tennis court replacements at Glover, the addition to Prospect Hill and refurbishment of the school field and masonry repairs and the conversion of district offices into classrooms at PMHS,” the district’s email said.

The district is looking to hire fully virtual teachers if needed in the fall, as well as hire temporary clinicians to address social and emotional wellness needs of students in their transition back to school. In the email,  spending areas highlighted included:

  • Expanding summer programming for students needing additional academic support.
  • Restoration of a world language teaching position to meet program demands and enable the world language coordinator to better support the needs of the district’s English language learners
  • Adding a high school science teacher to meet enrollment demands.
  • Continuing to provide teachers and students with learning resources necessary in both in person and virtual-learning environments, including software to support learning in literacy and numeracy.
  • Providing mobile-learning devices to all students in grades 3-12 as well as exploring emerging technologies that support learning and teaching.
  • Expanding innovative and flexible furnishings.
  • Ensuring that class sizes across all grade levels are at or below board of education guidelines.

According to Hricay, $1.1 million of the operating budget would be allocated to the debt service fund.

The board was unanimous on wanting to lower the tax levy. Trustee Eileen Miller stated that 2.98% is not low enough.

Trustee Jessica Young said she was hesitant about taking too much from the debt service fund, but reiterated the need to keep the tax increase below 3%.

The next regular board of education meeting is scheduled for April 21, and can be viewed on YouTube Live. The board is expected to approve the budget and send it to the district’s voters. The vote for the budget as well as the school board election will be held on May 18.