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South Colonie begins budget talks

According to board member Neil Johanning, the board, which had projected an estimated tax rate last May when residents went to the polls to vote on the 2008-2009 budget, could not have foreseen the factors that resulted in the Niskayuna taxpayers' bills to be higher than expected. Those factors included a large number of tax certiorari lawsuits being won by many businesses in the school district's boundaries and the difference in home assessment percentages between homes in Colonie and homes in Niskayuna.

"So, because we heard a little backlash with that, we think that's one of the reasons the press box [vote] went down," Johanning said.

Another reason the district is beginning the budget process early includes the recent vacancy of Board Member Vernon Fonda's seat. Fonda resigned from his position in December, citing personal reasons.

For weeks, the board met to discuss the options for what to do with Fonda's position. Johanning said the options came down to the following: appoint someone to fill Fonda's seat, hold an election to fill Fonda's seat, or leave the seat vacant until Fonda's term expires on June 30, dropping the board from that of nine members to eight.

Johanning said for as long as he has been on the board, for three years, he has not heard of the district ever having a board with only eight members. His own position on the board was secured after he was appointed by Ryan when a former board member died.

Ryan said that while the board was not leaning in favor of one option as of Tuesday, Jan. 6, an election could cost the district a lot of money.

The board's final decision on Fonda's seat was not available at press time.

Johanning said the board encourages the public to attend all budget meetings, especially the two question-and-answer sessions new to the district's budget process this year taking place at Veeder Elementary School on Thursday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. and at Shaker Road Elementary School on Thursday, March 5, at 7 p.m.

For a full version of the district's budget calendar, visit the district's Web site at www.southcolonieschools.org.

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