District begins budget process

Getting a jump on the upcoming new year, local school officials in Niskayuna have reached out to residents in two budget forums, bringing the public up to speed on the fiscal challenges facing the suburban school system.

That last of the sessions took place Monday, Dec. 10, and included a look at the impact changes in state aid, rising health insurance costs and other big ticket items like existing staff union contracts are expected to have on the budget that will be presented to the public for a vote in the spring.

We wanted to give everyone an opportunity to see the things we have control over in the district and the things we don't, Matthew Bourgeois, the district's assistant superintendent for business, said. "We also went over the revaluation project the town is working on and showed how, at least theoretically, it won't lead to tax increases for homeowners because as the assessment goes up on a house, the tax rate should go down.

"And it is very important for people to keep that in mind as we are going forward in 2008," he said. "Just because the town is going through a reassessment doesn't mean that a person's school taxes are necessarily going to go up."

While less than a dozen residents attended the workshops, Bourgeois said it was important for the district to keep the public involved in the process. Additional discussions are expected after Gov. Eliot Spitzer unveils his state budget next month.

"Once we have some numbers from the state, we can start looking at the impact they will have on the district's finances," Bourgeois said. "In January, we will start meeting with our school principals and directors to look at program costs and consider any new district initiatives for the following year."

Along with taking a preliminary look at finances, the Niskayuna district is also calling on residents to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the high school's Hall of Fame program by submitting applications on behalf of deserving graduates. The deadline for those applications is Jan. 31.

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