Niskayuna School District adopts budget

The Niskayuna school tax rate may increase by 3.48 percent based on the proposed budget adopted by the school board at the Monday, March 24, meeting.

This proposed budget for 2008-09 is the lowest spending increase and estimated tax increase in the last five years, said Kevin Baughman, superintendent of schools. "We are cognizant and respectful of the challenges that everyone is facing given current economic conditions."

The estimated tax rate is tentative due to a townwide reassessment of all properties and state aid numbers, which are not yet firm.

The board has scheduled a public hearing on the budget for May 6 at 7 p.m. in the Van Antwerp middle school auditorium. The vote on the budget is scheduled for May 20 at the Niskayuna High School.

The total spending on the budget is $70.1 million, an increase of $6.85 million from last year's budget. Of this total, approximately $4.4 million is for costs associated with the district's $94.5 million construction project that was approved by voters in 2006. These costs will be offset entirely in the 2008-09 budget by a combination of state aid and the elimination of other debt, resulting in no impact on local taxes.

The remaining increase in proposed spending is $2.45 million, which results in the estimated tax increase of 3.48 percent. This increase is attributed to rising costs of contractual salaries and benefits, utilities, fuel and special education.

Highlights of changes in the proposed spending plan are an increase in staffing levels, including added teaching positions in the elementary schools due to an enrollment increase of 30 students; a health teacher to focus on alcohol and substance abuse prevention in the fifth through ninth grades; added staff in counseling, an assistant middle school principal to assist in both middle schools and a director of English Language Arts. There will also be additional hours for existing technology staff at the high school to continue the Project Lead the Way pre-engineering curriculum. In 2008-09 the district will introduce Digital Electronics, a fourth course, to the project.

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