Saratoga County

3 openings on BH-BL board draw 4 candidates

Four residents will run for three school board seats in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School

Four residents will run for three school board seats in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District next month.

Three incumbents — Joe Pericone, Patre Kuziak and John Blowers — will run for re-election, and John Kelch, a challenger who has been critical of some of them, will make his first bid for the board.

The public will be able to hear all of the candidates at a Meet the Candidates Night sponsored by the Saratoga County League of Women Voters at 7 p.m. May 11 at the high school on Lakehill Road. School budget votes take place on May 17, when voters also will elect school board members.

All of the candidates agree on one thing: the board and the public need to lobby legislators to change the Triborough Amendment, which requires districts to keep paying public employees’ scheduled salary increases after their contract expires even if negotiations are stalled. Candidates also want lawmakers to deal with some other unfunded mandates from the federal and state governments.

“These changes need to come from the federal level and then down,” Kuziak said. For example, districts without a large commercial tax base are at a disadvantage.

“I want Burnt Hills to have some of the commercial tax base of New York City or Colonie,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a level playing field.”

Blowers said though the job of running a school district is difficult, there are ways to save money, such as developing partnerships with other organizations.

The board is currently meeting to look at infrastructure needs and “all forms of educational delivery,” he said. “We’re supposed to see the results of that committee in June.”

Kelch started getting involved in school district business two and a half years ago because he was interested in a few issues and then expanded his involvement. He is a frequent speaker at board meetings during the public comment session and a vocal critic of the current teacher contract and the board members who voted for it.

“There’s nothing optional in a teachers’ contract,” he said. “They’ve got it all.”

The teachers’ current contract expires at the end of June; it was signed in July 2008.

Kelch said the board should have realized the economy was headed south when they finalized the contract, but board president Blowers said the country wasn’t officially in a recession at that point and they didn’t realize how bad things would get.

“We don’t have crystal balls when we do these things,” Blowers said. “We delivered what I considered to be a competitive contract — fair to the teachers, fair to the district and fair to the taxpayers.”

Pericone praised the district’s teachers for their work with children.

“As our students continue to excel academically, both locally and nationally, the school is also striving to round out their education outside the classroom,” he said.

Theater productions, concerts and sports are examples of the extracurricular programs that make students more well-rounded, he said.

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