School board votes 6-1 to move forward with capital-reserve fund that would use budget surpluses; voters must approve


The Pelham Board of Education voted 6-1 Wednesday to take steps to establish a capital-reserve fund using budget surpluses, while also discussing retaining elementary interventionists for another year as it continued to review the proposed 2022-23 budget. 

Trustee Michael Owen-Michaane voted against creating the capital reserve.

The district has previously said establishing the capital fund would require voter approval as a separate proposition on the May 17 school district ballot.

The fund would be “a very transparent way to spend money,” said Vice President Sue Bratone Childs. “We can fund it at our discretion. But we have to have community approval and specific allocations that we put in front of the voters.”

The school board would allocate to the reserve using surpluses up to a maximum of $10 million, and spending from it would also be subject to voter approval, the district said.

The reserve would be used for facility improvements and repairs, according to the district.

The board is in the process of considering a $83,7 million budget proposed by Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ that would raise taxes by 2.62%, exactly equaling the state-set cap on increases for next year. Spending would climb 4.23% for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The role of interventionist was a new position introduced this year in the elementary schools. The position was designed to provide extra help to students for one school year during the return to classes after more than a year of virtual and hybrid learning due to Covid-19.

Owen-Michaane said he would like to see the services provided by interventionists continue next school year. He said the district should “keep what we had this year,” with four interventionist positions in the elementary schools. 

Retaining the roles would be the equivalent of adding two more teacher salaries to the budget, and those range from $70,000 to more than $100,000, according to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Personnel Steven Garcia. 

“I think we have to be fiscally responsible K to 12,” said Board President Jessica DeDomenico. “We really have to be thoughtful about how we are allocating resources.” 

During public comments, resident Steve Shekane called for dedicated college counselors to free up time so other counselors can focus on student emotional health. He also said the district should invest in solar panels on school buildings, citing the long-term savings.

In reference to the district boosting taxes by the maximum allowed for the fifth consecutive year, he said, “I would have no problem with this seemingly new policy, if all of the money was being spent on our kids, hiring more teachers and interventionists, and improving educational, social and emotional outcomes.”  

The next board of education meeting is scheduled for April 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Pelham Middle School library.