North Colonie braces for tough times

Meeting’s audience supports exceeding tax cap to meet fiscal challenges

— “Rather than waiting until we’re out of money and come screaming and crying to you about the dire situation, we’re looking at this years in advance and taking steps now to address the problem” Assistant Superintendent for Business Tom Rybaltowski said. “If we do nothing, we’re going to run out of our savings in the next three to four years.”

Interested in hearing the public’s concerns, Corr split the room into seven small groups to discuss four conceptual options the district could take with the coming budget: maintain the status quo; cut expenditures only and stay within the tax levy cap; raise taxes only and exceed the tax levy cap; or slightly exceed the tax levy cap and cut expenditures over time.

Groups highlighted what they most valued in the district, praising the high quality of education, student-teacher connections and its good reputation. When the groups came back at the close of the meeting, a majority showed support for exceeding the tax cap. Although residents stressed the probability of “taxpayer fatigue,” many were not willing to give up the school district’s offerings, especially extracurricular activities.

“I’ve lived in this district a long time … and over the years, there was always that discussion that we don’t want to raise the taxes too much and I have repeatedly heard people from the audience say, ‘I would rather pay a little bit more,’” said Linda Gimondo, a district employee and mother of a students in the district. “I have repeatedly heard people say they moved to this district because of the school district.”

While many residents expressed their thoughts about the upcoming budget, they were also concerned about the lack of people coming out to vote. One resident said that less than 10 percent of eligible voters actually come out and vote. Rybaltowski said a budget proposal has not been defeated since 1978.

The district will hold several other budget meetings throughout the coming months on March 4, 7, 11, 14, 21, 27 and on April 8. The school board is scheduled to adopt a budget on April 22 and the annual Board of Education election and school budget vote will be on May 21.

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