COLONIE: Schools react to Spitzer's plan

Officials at Colonie's school districts said they are pleased to hear some of the comments Gov. Eliot Spitzer made in his January budget proposal about improving education in the state. Questions remain, however, about how the implementation of some measures would affect the districts.

In Spitzer's proposal, he suggested putting more money in the hands of the state Department of Education to keep school performance up to par.

Locally, officials from North and South Colonie schools admit much of the talk is aimed at the state's ill-performing schools and said suggested measures to help those schools meet education standard, such as more accountability, could prove counterproductive to the state's better performing districts. The North Colonie district includes some of the top performing schools in the area, while South Colonie schools have raised their scores after being identified by the state as needing improvement.

I hope that suburban districts that are working hard to do well won't get lost, said North Colonie School District Super-intendent Randy Ehrenberg.

Under Spitzer's proposal, the school will see roughly $600,000 more in state aid for next year. Most of the money would go toward reimbursement of a more than $1 million bill for school buses and communication equipment purchased this year.

The budget increase would help, said Ehrenberg, but the financial demand on the district is ever-increasing as board members look to formulate the 2007-2008 budget in coming weeks.

The proportion residential taxpayers in Colonie pay compared to commercial property holders continues to shift from last year. This year's budget saw a nearly 2 percent increase in residential taxes, accounting for homeowners paying 59 percent of the total tax levy. District officials estimated the residential share of next year's budget will be 62 percent.

North Colonie will continue to earn a place among the top percentage of performing schools, said Ehrenberg. However, the proportion increases will mean that the district will continue to have to ask taxpayers for more, she said.

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