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South Colonie's tax cap challenge succeeds

66.2 percent of voters approve of budget in excess of state tax cap

— What was continuously called a challenging budgeting year for the South Colonie Central School District was capped with residents approving a 2013-14 school budget that exceeds the state tax cap.

The $92.3 million budget passed by a vote of 2,205 to 1,105, or a 66.2 percent approval margin, on Tuesday, May 21. South Colonie was one of 27 districts out of the 682 in New York that asked its residents to approve an override of the state tax cap. The budget has a 0.49 percent spending increase over the 2012-13 school year with in an increase in the tax levy by 4.98 percent, or 0.55 percent above the tax cap.

Administrators noted the district has lost $13.2 million in state aid over the past five years, putting the school in a tight spot. According to the district, $485,000 of the state aid will be restored this year.

South Colonie teachers and administrators also recently decided to approve contract givebacks for the second year in a row. The roughly 450 members of the South Colonie Teachers Association will take one unpaid day during the next school year, saving the district approximately $230,000. The Central Office and Building Level administrators also approved of health insurance and compensation changes in their contract, adding another $102,000 savings for a total of $332,000.

Several programs will be maintained within the new budget. Administrators have said that cuts would include a roughly 9 percent reduction across all areas, but still protect certain programs. Full-day kindergarten will stay at all elementary schools and class sizes will be equalized. Advanced Placement and college-level courses will remain as well as early literacy programs. Foreign languages will remain in seventh through 12th grades but will be cut from fifth and sixth. The art and music programs will see some restructuring without any programs eliminated.

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