South Colonie officials count ballots on Wednesday, June 17 (Photo provided)
COLONIE — Voters in the South Colonie School District overwhelmingly approved the 2020-21, $107 million spending plan by a count of 1,706 to 516.
The budget increases spending by just more than 2 percent and will increase the tax levy by 2.92 percent, a whisker less than the state mandated tax cap of 2.97 percent. That equates to the owner of a home valued at $175,000 paying an additional $87 in school taxes next year. The owner of a home worth $200,000 would see taxes increase by about $99 and the owner of a $225,000 home would pay roughly an additional $112.
To close a $3.2 million deficit, the district will eliminate 40 positions — it will save $1.4 million through attrition, $479,000 by not filling temporary or part time positions and $679,922 by laying off the equivalent of 10 full time employees, including four full time teachers and a part time art teacher. In all, the district is looking to not fill or eliminate the equivalent of 15 full time teachers and three part time teachers.
It is also cuts $606,000 from things like equipment, supplies, overtime and by restructuring special education, with another $289,629 cut from BOCES and outside placement.
The budget will continue to fund, at least for the time being, elementary class sizes of about 20 students, full-day kindergarten, music programs, foreign language programs, academic extracurricular clubs and athletics.
“We are so thankful for everyone who took the time to vote in the election,” said Superintendent David Perry. “Due to the current financial landscape caused by a reduction in state aid and the COVID crisis our board had to make some difficult decisions surrounding the 2020-21 budget. The approved spending will allow the district to continue to meet the needs of our students while bracing for potential mid-year cuts and other reductions.”
Due to the fiscal crunch caused by COVID-19 state aid is, at best, held flat this year and Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not rule out cuts as the state grapples with a $15 billion deficit due to the pandemic. The cuts to schools and local municipalities could be up to 20 percent should the federal government not come through with financial aid, Cuomo has said in the past. In an unprecedented move, Cuomo said the state will re-open the budget on a quarterly basis and make adjustments accordingly.
Due to COVID-19 districts across the state were forced to hold the school budget vote and Board of Education elections exclusively by absentee ballot. The election was initially scheduled for June 9, but a number of districts reported issues with mailing the ballots so it was pushed back a week to June 16.
In South Colonie, voters also re-elected Brian Casey to the Board of Education with 1,948 votes. He ran unopposed and will begin his next five-year term on July 1.
A proposition to purchase five school buses of various sizes for $531,000, financed over five-years, was also approved by voters 1,629 to 588.
“I am thrilled that the community continues to support the district as we work to provide excellence in academic programming while maintaining fiscal responsibility to our taxpayers,” said Board of Education President Edward Sim.