Amsterdam school district to seek concessions from unions for budget

In the wake of taxpayers’ rejection of the Greater Amsterdam School District’s proposed $58.35 milli
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Categories: Schenectady County

In the wake of taxpayers’ rejection of the Greater Amsterdam School District’s proposed $58.35 million budget Tuesday night, the school board decided Wednesday it would once again ask the teachers union for concessions before deciding what to do about next year’s budget.

Nellie Bush, who won election to the Board of Education on Tuesday, implored her colleagues to give the budget more thought before approving a plan. The board had the option of approving the budget that was shot down by the public Tuesday night because it spends $361,239 less than a contingency budget would.

“We are not down to the 11th-hour,” said Bush. “It’s never too late, never give up. That’s always been my motto.”

If a revised budget is agreed upon, it must be drawn up and voted on by the public by June 23. The 2011-12 school fiscal year begins July 1.

Most board members felt the union would not agree to renegotiations, but decided to delay a vote because there is over a month to the deadline. The board did decide if concessions were made, half of the money would go toward restoring teacher positions that had been cut and half would go toward lowering the tax levy. However, Superintendant Tom Perillo reminded everyone that those stipulations would be part of the negotiation with the union and could not be guaranteed.

Board member John Bottisti questioned why the union would be willing to negotiate, when during previous talks they offered no concessions when told all of the money saved would go toward restoring positions.

Bush said it is the board’s obligation to the taxpayers to try, calling the proposed 16.5 percent tax levy increase unacceptable.

Under the proposal voted down 1,450 to 721 on Tuesday, 40 teacher positions and 22 support jobs would be cut. The district was able to cut spending enough to avoid a tax levy increase last year, but the loss of about $2.3 million in state funding made that impossible this year, according to Perillo.

A majority of the public at Wednesday’s meeting was not happy with the new plan.

“The budget got voted down because of how high the taxes were, not because they wanted positions restored,” said city resident Lisa Scarofile. “The point is to cut the jobs, cut the fat.”

Perillo said if the budget is revised, the board would want to propose one with a significant decrease in the tax levy. If that couldn’t happen it may be more prudent to restore positions.

“As our treasurer said, if you’re going to trim back [the tax levy] we don’t want to put out something that’s only at 15.5 percent. We’re sure the public would want more than that.”

The next board meeting had been moved forward to Wednesday, June 1, to allow more time for budget discussions before the June 23 deadline.

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