Three of four school budgets in the Capital Region won approval in a second round of voting Tuesday night, sparing school boards in those districts from having to make additional cuts to programs and services.
Approved were budgets for the Cobleskill-Richmondville, Fonda-Fultonville and Stillwater central school districts. Voters in the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District rejected its revised budget proposal, forcing that district to adopt a contingency budget that carries no increase in the tax levy.
The boards of the four districts put up their budgets up for a second vote after all were defeated in May. They made revisions to their budgets prior to Tuesday night’s vote.
Of the four budgets, three required simple majorities to pass as they contained tax levy increases at or below the state tax cap. Stillwater’s $21.1 million budget, however, required a supermajority, or 60 percent approval, as the levy increase exceeded the tax cap. It passed with 62 percent, tallying 625 “yes” votes and 390 “no” votes. The tax levy increase is 1.49 percent increase; the district’s tax cap mandated a decrease of 4.5 percent because of a sharp increase in the total property value of the district.
The approved budget is $135,077 less than the original proposal that was defeated in May and decreases spending over the current year by $200,710, or 0.94 percent.
“We are greatly appreciative of everyone who came out to vote today,” district Superintendent Stanley Maziejka said. “Throughout the budget process we were faced with some difficult decisions, and we want to thank the community for recognizing that a Stillwater education is one worth investing in. As we’ve seen this past year, every vote truly matters.”
Residents of the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District approved their budget, 668-483. The revised budget is $23.9 million and will raise property taxes by 3.5 percent, which is below the district’s allowable cap of 4.76 percent. It adds $335,000 to the total levy, bringing it to $9.8 million.
Voters in May rejected a $24.2 million budget with a tax levy increase of nearly 8 percent.
The revised budget eliminated two more jobs, bringing the cuts to 25 positions and saving the district an additional $80,000. The board also eliminated nearly all modified sports, saving the district between $50,000 and $60,000.
The new 2012-13 budget is 2.6 percent lower than the current year’s budget and is the lowest budget school Superintendent James Hoffman has proposed in his six years at Fonda-Fultonville.
Had voters rejected the budget, the board of education would have had to cut an additional $310,000. Hoffman said the cuts could have targeted sports and the full-day kindergarten program; it also could have resulted in larger class sizes.
“I am relieved voters approved the budget. It is a tax increase that is in line with what we have had for the last six years. Those increases ranged from 2 percent to 4 percent. The May budget was the first budget that failed here in a dozen years,” Hoffman said.
In the Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District, voters approved the budget, 1178-887. A bus proposition also passed.
“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our school and students,” said school Superintendent Lynn Macan.
The $35.1 million budget proposal reflects a spending increase of $888,568, or 2.6 percent from 2011-12. It carries a 2.72 percent increase in the levy, the maximum allowed under the law, and adds $383,656 to the levy.
Residents rejected a $35.3 million budget in May with a 4.5 percent increase in the levy, which exceeded the cap. The board trimmed the budget by not filling vacant positions, reducing BOCES services, trimming clerical staff hours and dropping modified sports.
Had the budget failed, the district would have had to cut another $383,657.
The Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District budget was defeated by a vote of 176-114.
To cut the tax levy increase to zero, the board will have to cut another $115,810 from the budget, said district Superintendent Dan Russom. The board will eliminate the purchase of a new bus and other equipment, such as computers and bus cameras. The district also would have to start charging outside groups to use school facilities.
The board will put up a bus proposition again at a later date, Russom said. The defeated budget stood at $8.5 million, which was the same amount as the one defeated May 8. This time, however, the tax levy increase was reduced to 2.8 percent from 4.5 percent.
“We attempted to listen to the voters by lowering the proposed tax levy increase, but in these difficult economic times, voters decided against the 2.79 percent increase as well,” Russom said. “Adopting a contingent budget will result in further cuts at the district, and it is another sign that significant changes will have to be made going forward in order to maintain the quality of educational programs provided to students,” he said.
District residents also rejected a proposition to use about $30,000 of capital reserve money to repair the walk-in cooler and refrigerator in the school cafeteria. The original equipment was purchased in 1997 and is no longer operating effectively, so school officials will examine other options for repairing the equipment.