Saratoga County

School budget calls for increased spending

The Stillwater Central School District Board of Education adopted the 2008-09 budget Thursday nig


The Stillwater Central School District Board of Education adopted the 2008-09 budget Thursday night that calls for a spending increase of 3.3 percent and a tax increase of 2.9 percent.

The $18.2 million budget is $588,618 more than last year’s budget.

“I know the budget committee worked very hard, and it was a tough job,” school board president Brita Donovan said. “We worked hard to make it more than fair.”

The adopted budget calls for a much lower increase than the first preliminary budget presented last month.

Left out in the final budget was the addition of a full-time social worker, a part-time gifted-and-talented education teacher and a new maintenance truck.

The district also saved $36,000 by keeping two additional special education students in-house instead of outsourcing that instruction to BOCES, according to special education director Kenn Handin.

Instead, two teaching assistants will be hired to help the students in standard classrooms.

“You need the manpower, the teaching personnel to do it,” Handin said. “The worst thing to do is bring them back and not have them supported.”

The district is also hiring a new special education teacher, which Handin said was necessary to comply with state standards for student-to-teacher ratios during tutoring. Regulations require one teacher for every five students in those sessions, but Handin said that one teacher is currently responsible for up to eight students at a time, depending on scheduling.

“That puts us in a liability situation if the state comes in and does an audit and sees those students in there,” Handin said. “Additionally, the state has those ratios for a reason, because those kids have significant needs.”

Student transportation costs are expected to increase by $93,160 to just under $1.1 million. Employee benefits will also increase by $243,567, or 6.64 percent.

Administrator salaries for grades five through 12 will increase by $51,772, largely because an assistant principal is being promoted to principal under the recently approved reorganization plan.

“There’s not a whole lot of budget growth here,” Superintendent of Schools Stanley Maziejka said. “Ninety-five percent of this budget is really outside of our control.”

Only one board member, Valerie Masterson, voted against the budget. Masterson said she didn’t receive a copy of the final budget until Thursday evening and she didn’t have time to review it.

Although he voted in favor of the budget, board member Timothy Scrom said he also wished he would have had more time to study the budget.

“I feel very uncomfortable having a budget before my eyes for the first time tonight,” he said. “I would really like to have seen a smoother budget process and maybe an opportunity to discuss this as a board prior to coming to a vote.”

Individual rates for taxpayers in Stillwater, Saratoga, Easton and Schaghticoke will not be known until August, officials said. However, a 2.92 percent increase would mean a home assessed at $100,000 in Stillwater would pay about $35.57 more next year than this year.

A home in Saratoga assessed at $100,000 would seee an increase of $48.65 if the actual increase for those taxpayers is 2.92 percent. The budget vote is scheduled for May 20.

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