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District weighs merged classes

Nisky’s first budget forum focuses on class size, multi-grade courses

— Combing different grades into one classroom isn’t a new approach to achieving savings, but some parents and community members aren’t welcoming it.

The Niskayuna Central School District held its first community budget forum on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Van Antwerp Middle School, and it focused on class sizes and combinations. Elementary class sizes were the grade levels discussed.

District officials said nine combined classes would be the maximum amount in the 2012-13 school year. These combinations would yield a projected minimum savings of $585,000, but adding savings from physical education, music and art would bring the overall savings to $682,500. All but two of the combined classes would have less than 26 students, with two of the fourth- and fifth-grade combined classes holding 27 students.

Superintendent Susan Salvaggio said over the last six months she met with parents and school staff to discuss their concerns and receive input on the upcoming budget. She repeatedly said she heard the schools have a large role in the surrounding community.

“Our schools, our programs and our services that we provide for children are the most important thing to us about our schools,” she said.

Community Budget Survey

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The district is facing a $3.5 million budget gap if it is to remain under the state mandated property tax cap, which holds the district to a 2.31 percent increase in property tax levies. If the Board of Education decided to present a budget to voters over the limit it would require a supermajority of 60 percent voting in support.

The 2011-12 budget approved by voters totals over $77.19 million and increased spending by more than $740,000, or 0.97 percent, and it had a tax levy increase of just under 4 percent. The budget was approved by 61 percent of voters.

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