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Niskayuna school closure last resort

Majority of board pushes shuttering Van Antwerp to bottom of possible reductions

Niskayuna Board of Education member Robert Winchester, left, says the district didn’t properly listen to concerns from community members on proposing to close Van Antwerp Middle School. The majority of board members on Tuesday, Dec. 18, supported moving any school closure as a last resort to achieve savings.

Niskayuna Board of Education member Robert Winchester, left, says the district didn’t properly listen to concerns from community members on proposing to close Van Antwerp Middle School. The majority of board members on Tuesday, Dec. 18, supported moving any school closure as a last resort to achieve savings. Photo by John Purcell.

— Fellow board member Jeanne Sosnow said there haven’t been enough positives shown to counter the negative aspects of closing the school. Sosnow suggested closing the school should be placed at the bottom of the list of possible reductions, which is anticipated to be released on Jan. 8. The district’s administration typically drafts a list of such reductions, placing them in various degrees of severity.

Board member John Buhrmaster asserted all options should remain, because the severity of other reductions isn’t fully known yet.

“Anything we are looking at in this budget process in the end is to preserve programs,” Buhrmaster said. “We have so many expenses in this district that we can look at that are delicate to look at, but we should look at them.”

He added there are no cuts remaining that “won’t fill the room” with people opposing the proposed reduction.

“We’ve taken all the easy ones, every area we have left we will get 200 people in this room,” Buhrmaster said. “We can be moved by the public, but in the end we have to find out what is going to pass as a general budget.”

Board member Robert Winchester didn’t feel the community’s opinions had been properly heard.

“I feel that we have not adequately listened to the advice of the population that we serve,” Winchester said.

Winchester said instead of framing the question as how the middle school closure would affect students and families, the board should ask what would be best for the school community.

Matthew Bourgeois, assistant superintendent for business at the district, said in order to get the property tax levy increase down to 4 percent the district would need to cut around $4 million.

If the budget fails to pass, the district would have another attempt to present a budget to voters. If it failed to pass a second time, the district would be forced to make $6 million in cuts to hold a zero percent tax levy increase, as mandated by tax cap legislation.

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