The Utica City School District has created a $243 million preliminary budget for the 2023-24 school year.
“I will stand here and defend that budget and I will argue with anyone that wants to argue with me that we are spending money recklessly,” said acting superintendent Brian Nolan said after presenting the budget, which includes nearly $30 million in new spending to the school board.
Here are key details about the budget:
With Utica’s budget increase, here’s the impact on taxes and state aid
The budget represents an increase of 12.5 percent, or almost $30 million, over last year’s budget. There will be no tax increase. State foundation aid will increase by about $29 million to its full funding level. As far as state aid, all of the budget requests, submitted by chiefs, principals and department heads, were included in the budget, Nolan said.
As of April 17, the district had an unreserved fund balance of almost $30 million, none of which is being used to balance the preliminary budget. “Financially, when you look at the fund balances, the district is on very solid financial ground,” Nolan said.
The reserve’s biggest problem is that the state might decide the district has too much money in it, he said. And some districts talk about falling off a financial cliff when aid from the COVID-19 pandemic dries up, but Utica has been thrifty with its money and shouldn’t fall over any cliffs any time soon, Nolan said.
Utica extracurricular activities: New sports, intramural programming
The district will add a ninth grade boys’ basketball team, and varsity and junior varsity boys’ volleyball teams. And New Hartford officials called last week to ask if Utica wants to partner on its wrestling team, something the district has been asking for years, Nolan said. There are no girls’ sports that the district could add, Nolan said.
The district will add an intramural program — sports, drama, music, arts — for third and fourth, and for fifth and sixth graders. It will also try to start a summer camp program that will complement, not compete against, the city’s summer youth program with meals and activities kids might not otherwise get to try as well as a high school Drama Club musical production.
Inside the classroom
The budget restores full funding to the Mohawk Valley Community College dual credit program and the Young Scholars program with Utica University.
Most elementary class sizes should fall in the sweet spot of 18 to 24 students with just two projected to reach 25 students and several predicted to be smaller, which increases costs, Nolan said. Secondary class sizes should fall in the 20-to-24-student range, which he called “tremendous.”
Frankfort charter school impact
The budget projects that the district will spent $12.1 million on expenses related to the Utica Academy of Science Charter School, located in Frankfort, which 858 Utica students attend this year.
That money covers tuition, transportation, textbooks, two school nurses and nursing supplies, although Nolan questioned whether Utica needs to pay for books, nurses and supplies since the school, which used to have a building in Utica, is now fully in Frankfort.
When the Utica budget vote will be held
The district will hold a series of meetings to present the budget to residents and to answer questions about the budget. Dates and locations have not yet been set. The school board must also hold a formal budget hearing between seven and 14 days before the vote.
The public can vote on approving the budget and electing school board members on May 16.
Utica school district’s budget: Here are the new positions
The budget calls for hiring for 94 new positions, from teachers, social workers and assistant principals to cleaners, painters and a part-time strength and conditioning coach.
Here are the positions included:
- Five school counselors (two in the high school, one at John F. Kennedy Middle schools and two in elementary schools).
- Six social workers, bringing the total up to 29 so that there will be five at the high school and two in each of the other schools.
- Six assistant principals (one in high school, five in elementary).
- Three deans of students (all elementary).
- One director of upper elementary education (fourth through eighth grades).
- One director of English as a New Language, bilingual education and world languages.
- One career-and-technical-education curriculum administrator.
- One career-and-technical-education data specialist.
- One literacy specialist (kindergarten through eighth grade).
- One math specialist (kindergarten through eighth grade).
- Two instructional data coaches.
- 30 related service providers in the special education department (one physical therapist, five occupational therapists, 13 speech therapists and 11 psychologists).
- Nine teachers (one social studies, two math, one science, two reading, two art and one elementary).
- Five parent liaisons.
- Three teacher assistants.
- One coordinator of school security.
- One assistant director of human resources.
- One coordinator of college-and-community-based partnerships.
- One clerical position in student services.
- One parent advocate.
- 11 cleaners (one in each elementary school and one in the bus garage).
- Three painters.
- One part-time strength and conditioning coach.