Niskayuna school board begins budget process

At the Feb. 25 meeting, Superintendent of Schools Kevin Baughman described the board's ideal budget as "a productive budget that's responsible and moves ahead."

The need to be fiscally conservative while still meeting the needs of schools and students was stressed by Baughman.

When discussing the need for school expansion, he pointed out that although the Niskayuna schools construction project resulted in over $3 million in new debt for 2008-2009, this debt is fully offset by state aid, savings, and interest earnings for the next year. Because the construction is fully offset, it does not contribute to the cost of the 2008-2009 budget and causes no adverse affects for taxpayers.

The construction project is currently in progress at four Niskayuna schools: Craig Elementary School, Glencliff Elementary School, Van Antwerp Middle School and Niskayuna High School. Managed by Sano-Rubin and The Thomas Group, current construction includes building expansions to create more classrooms, the creation of larger classrooms, replacing heating and air-conditioning systems, creating a new courtyard at Craig Elementary, and building larger, fully accessible bathrooms for students. Construction at Birchwood Elementary School, Hillside Elementary School, Rosendale Elementary School, and Iroquois Middle School will begin later this spring or summer. Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2010.

When discussing the construction project with George Weingartner from Sano-Rubin and Garrett Hamlin from The Thomas Group, the board emphasized that the safety and wellbeing of Niskayuna students and staff is their top priority.

Replying to parental concerns about air quality raised at a January parent-teacher organization meeting, Bourgeois stated that to ensure public safety the new buildings will not be using any hazardous materials, such as asbestos. The board has also decided to randomly test soil from the construction site to ensure that there are no health hazards. In response to staff's concerns about traffic problems and noise disruptions caused by the construction, both the construction managers' communication team and the board are eager to resolve any issues.

The board has not come to a final budget decision yet, but will continue to review the budget over the next three weeks. A recommended budget will be adopted on March 24 and a final budget will be presented to voters on May 20. Board meetings take place every Monday at 7 p.m. The next meeting is March 10 at the Van Antwerp Middle School auditorium. ""

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