Niskayuna school board begins budget process

The Niskayuna Board of Education met Monday, Feb. 25, and Monday, March 3, at the Van Antwerp Middle School Auditorium to discuss the 2008-2009 preliminary budget and the $94.5 million dollar construction project to renovate and expand Niskayuna schools to better accommodate both current students and an increasing number of new enrollees.

The preliminary budget is a revision of the board's original baseline budget and includes cost adjustments and spending requests from teachers and administrators. Budget revision will continue until a final proposed budget is presented to voters on May 20.

According to Matt Bourgeois, assistant superintendent for business, the 2008-2009 preliminary budget is approximately $66.3 million, but the board is confident that this figure will be reduced further before a recommended budget is adopted on March 24. Bourgeois stated that both the spending increase and tax levy will be increased by less than 5 percent, and he estimates that the tax levy will be approximately $46 million. Because taxes will be influenced by the reevaluation of property value, exact tax rates per $1,000 of assessed value could not be determined at this time.

The preliminary budget reflects the projected increase in elementary enrollment through the addition of 2.5 staff and also includes a reduction in class sizes and a reorganization of classes that Dr. Deborah Shea, the assistant superintendent for educational programs and instruction, on Feb. 25 said has softened the differences in class sizes between buildings.

The preliminary budget also includes a list of potential adjustments that the board will review to determine which requests are of greatest priority to Niskayuna schools.

Included in the list of preliminary budget adjustments are requests from several schools for additional staffing for 2008-2009; including staff for kindergarten, special education, fourth grade, fifth grade, art, music and physical education. There are also requests for a new library automation system, new equipment for grounds maintenance, and expanded counseling services.

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