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South Colonie adopts school budget

Last week, the South Colonie Central School District adopted an $88.2 million budget, at a 3.92 percent projected tax increase from last year's.

According to Superintendent of Schools Michael Marcelle, creating the budget was a very long process, which began in January.

The projected 3.92 percent tax increase reflects a $125.73 school tax increase for an average Colonie homeowner whose property is assessed at $150,000. Marcelle said the Board of Education worked to come up with a budget that would be as easy on taxpayers as possible, but still beneficial to the children in the school system.

"These are difficult economic times. We always try to look for that balance between needs of our students and what's acceptable to our taxpayers," he said.

According to Marcelle, the board tried to cut personnel costs without cutting class sizes by examining which courses had low enrollments, and cutting positions such as teachers and teaching assistants from the ones that did not. The budget includes the elimination of 23 instructional and non-instructional positions.

Marcelle said other cuts will be made in after-school programs, library hours, field trips, staff development and athletics, should the budget be passed, which is expected to save the school district around $80,000. Field trip cuts alone are expected to generate $8,000 in savings.

A chunk of the budget would reflect the high costs of unfunded mandates by the state. These mandates include $194,000 toward sending students to area charter schools, as well as special education costs.

"We just have to absorb those; we don't have a choice," said Marcelle, referring to the costs that contribute to the increases in this year's budget.

Of the entire budget, 44.34 percent would go toward instructional salaries; 14.12 percent would go toward support salaries; 20.36 percent would go toward staff benefits; and the rest would go toward equipment, supplies, debt service, utilities and fuel, contracts and insurance, BOCES and interfund transfers.

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