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Voters approve Schalmont budget

Schalmont's $41.55 million 2008-2009 budget passed by a narrow margin of 58 votes, 568-to-510, on Tuesday, May 20.

The budget represents a 3.63 percent increase over the $40.09 million 2007-2008 budget and an estimated 2.99 percent tax levy increase.

I'm very happy and excited that the budget passed and will allow a lot of new opportunities for our children, said Michael Della Villa, school board president.

Della Villa said the tax levy increase has actually gone down over the past five years.

In 2006-2007, the board passed a budget that marked a 5.82 percent increase from the previous year. The 2007-2008 budget reduced the increase to 4.5 percent and the estimated tax levy increase for 2008-2009 would be 2.99 percent, according to school officials.

Superintendent Valerie Kelsey said rising diesel fuel costs, salary costs and health-care expenses accounted for the budget increase.

The district witnessed savings in the budget by cutting two teaching positions and shedding the equivalent of another, due to a decline in middle and high school enrollment.

Kelsey also cited participation in Capital Region BOCES and a change from a self-funded health insurance program to a private provider as other ways the district had saved in the budget.

Some voters said the tax levy increase was too much, and many of them cited the recently declining economy.

District resident James Love said he pays $6,000 per year in property taxes, even though he has no children. He said a neighbor who has five children pays much less.

"There's got to be a better way to fund these programs," said Love.

This year, Schalmont received a 2.19 percent increase in Foundation Aid and a total of $11.8 million in state funding.

Other voters, especially district parents, were more than happy to vote "yes" on what was often described by voters as a modest tax levy increase.

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