The Cortland Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to send to a public hearing the proposed 2021-22 district budget that includes funds for technology improvements.
The vote, 7-0, approved of a proposed $50.8 million budget, the second year of increase after being flat at $49.6 million five years before the 2020-21 budget was approved last year.
Prior to the vote during the Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Robert Edwards and district Business Administrator Laurie Widman gave a presentation on the proposed budget.
Widman said increases in the budget were mostly around the technology related expenses and increases in salary and health care. Details were not provided.
All students during the spring semester of the 2019-20 school year and the 202021 school year were provided with either a Google Chromebook or laptop to complete remote learning and some students, whose families did not have Wi-Fi access at home were given Wi-Fi hotspots as well, Edwards said.
“The ability to transition quickly was a result of” providing the students with laptops and Chromebooks, Edwards said.
He also said he has been speaking with Cortland Alderman Bruce Tytler (D-3rd Ward) about the $15 a month broadband for qualifying low-income families initiative that was introduced in the state budget this month and how it could impact Cortland district families. Edwards noted families in rural areas of upstate New York, including Cortland, have unequal internet access.
Board of Education member Lori Megivern asked Edwards if he knew approximately how many families would qualify for the reduced-cost service. Edwards said he didn’t know but was glad it was being raised at the state level.
Widman also said the “goal this year is to get off reserves.”
Prior to the 2020-21 budget, the district had relied on reserves to close the gap between revenue and expenditures for the 2015-16 school year, according to the district website.
A public hearing on the budget will be held May 11 at the Cortland Junior-Senior High School before the public can vote on May 18. Voting will be held in-person this year with COVID-guidelines, including mask wearing and social distancing, enforced, Widman said.