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Guilderland school budget talks continue

Health care and technology were the topics of conversation at the Thursday, March 13, meeting regarding the Guilderland Central School District 2008-09 budget. The 25-member Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee met to review aspects of the budget with school officials who were on hand to field questions.

The $84 million budget brings with it an estimated tax-increase of 1.54 percent. It's the smallest tax hike the district has seen in at least 15 years, although the budget increases overall spending by $1.8 million over the current year's spending plan.

Mandated school costs for retirement systems for both teachers and other workers are down, saving the district roughly $550,000. However, social security and worker's compensation contributions cost the district an additional $138,591. The largest burden is the growing price for providing healthcare, costing the district an additional $555,000 over the previous year's spending. The district picks up 80 percent of the cost of health insurance for employees and retirees, while the employees and retirees pay the remaining 20 percent. There are 800 active members and 276 retirees enrolled in the four health insurance plans offered by the district.

Compared to other Suburban Council schools, we are significantly below average in terms of district contributions, said Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Susan Tangorre. Some surrounding districts pay up to 91 percent of the cost of health insurance, according to statistics provided by the district. Some committee members questioned why the district offers so many healthcare options.

"We are certainly not obligated to give four options, but what we do try to give people are choices, we think it's important to give choices," said Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders, who added people living in certain areas, and in certain age brackets, tend to favor one healthcare option over another.

"I think when we talk about health insurance we need to remember there are people behind those numbers, some of them healthy and some of them not so healthy," said Tangorre.

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