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BURNT HILLS: School budget ready for polls

On May 15, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District voters will go to the polls to decide on a $50.2 million budget for the 2007-08 school year. The proposed budget is up 6.9 percent from the current year and will result in an average tax increase of 5.3 percent across the district's four towns. For the homeowner with property currently assessed at $171,100, the budget calls for a tax increase of $162.

Most of the increase in this year's budget comes from higher costs for staff, health insurance, utilities, BOCES services, and debt service. In addition to the budget, voters will consider a proposition to purchase four school buses and will elect four members to the board of education.

Months in process

The completed budget has undergone months of scrutiny that began last November. At that time, board members and school officials were struggling with projections of higher 2007-08 prices for fuel, utilities, health insurance, debt service and overall salary costs. In January, school board members received a complete set of preliminary 2007-08 budget figures that estimated an 8.6 percent budget-to-budget increase might be needed to carry existing programs forward one year. Principals and department heads also submitted 14 requests for more or different services.

Parents of students showed up regularly at winter school board meetings to give their views on priorities near and dear to their hearts. Primarily, that was advocating for small class sizes and enhanced sports opportunities.

Board president Elizabeth Herkenham encouraged parents to keep a watchful eye on the budget mapping process.

Parents have shown support for a true balance of athletics and scholastics, and the budget supports everything, said Herkenham during public comment time at a winter board meeting. "This isn't just lip service; feel free to advocate for your children and also observe our budget dialogues as they begin. You'll see the challenges we face. It's all a balancing act to make the tough decisions about what our community can bear as far as school taxes."

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