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Nisky' BOE settles on 3.95 percent tax hike

Additional state aid used to restore teachers, avoid multi-grade classes

The Niskayuna Board of Education settled on a 3.95 percent tax levy increase after approving the $77.19 million 2011-12 budget.

Niskayuna's proposed budget includes a spending increase of 0.97 percent, or $740,359, which school officials said was the lowest spending increase in at least 25 years. District officials said the average assessed house in the town at $250,000 would see an increase in taxes around $165 next year. The combined costs for salary, benefits and pension expenses increased by $2.75 million. Out of the 29.5 full-time equivalent positions cut in the budget, teacher cuts were only 2.9 FTE.

It was a very difficult budget period we went through but I think that we have created a budget that represents our determination to maintain programs in Niskayuna, said Jeanne Sosnow, president of the Board of Education. "We are certainly hoping that the community would support it."

Four elementary teaching positions were also restored before the board approved the budget, so the proposal to combine classes for fourth- and fifth-graders was avoided. Projected additional state aid was used to restore the positions. Reading teachers and most of the cuts to music and art programming were also restored before approval.

"The areas that the parents and students spoke to had to do with the creating of a [fourth and fifth grade] combination classes after restoration of some state aid, we maintained the single-level classrooms," said Sosnow.

Many districts have grappled with continuing to provide summer school, which is not mandated, and the Niskayuna BOE decided to eliminate summer school for grades kindergarten to eighth. Programs for gifted students were also fully maintained, said Sosnow. Late buses, another issue other districts have grappled with, would be reduced with a funding reduction of $18,000 to bring the total expense to $48,000. The number of days and the number of buses would both be reduced.

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