NISKAYUNA: Schools get state windfall

School district officials in Niskayuna have spent much of the week scrambling to determine just how much of an impact the final state budget will have on local taxes. The push comes after an unusual weekend session in Albany during which state lawmakers passed an education proposal, giving the suburban school district $13.5 million in state aid. That's $900,000 more than the amount initially proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, but Niskayuna doesn't expect to ultimately receive the full amount, according to the district's Assistant Superintendent for Business Matthew Bourgeois.

The school board still has to decide how this additional money is going to be used and how much of it will go toward the tax increase we are going to include in the proposed budget that the public will vote on next month, Bourgeois said at the Tuesday, April 3, school board meeting. "We know that about $140,000 in the extra money from the state is for a universal pre-kindergarten program that we don't offer at Niskayuna, and we don't expect to actually get that money, but besides that, the rest of this is awaiting a final decision."

Last week, the school board approved sending district voters a $63.2 million proposed annual budget for the district that included a 4.7 percent tax increase. Along with a $2.9 million hike in spending from the current year, the budget would carry a tax increase of roughly $175 for a home with an average assessment of $135,000. Superintendent Kevin Baughman hailed the proposed budget at the time as an important victory.

"Through a collaborative effort between administrators, staff and the board of education, we have developed a budget over the past three months that does more than merely maintain the status quo," said Baughman. "This plan is designed to move the district forward."

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