Schenectady County

Niskayuna school board approves smaller budget

Voters going to the polls next month in the Niskayuna Central School District will be asked to suppo

Voters going to the polls next month in the Niskayuna Central School District will be asked to support a budget that comes in under the tax cap, with a tax levy increase of 3.95 percent.

The Niskayuna school board Wednesday night approved the newest version of the 2013-14 spending plan to go to voters June 18, one that calls for a budget of $75,693,201, or a 0.47 percent spending increase over the current 2012-13 budget.

The new budget proposal was needed after district voters soundly defeated the initial proposal that included a 5.76 percent tax levy increase, which was over the 4.66 percent tax cap for the district.

The new proposal now comes in below the cap and also just below 4 percent. That means a simple majority will be needed to pass the budget at the second vote.

“I am very hopeful that we will have support for this budget,” board President Deb Oriola said after Wednesday night’s vote.

To get to the 3.95 percent levy increase, the board officially approved a combination of more than $900,000 in spending cuts and new revenue.

The new proposal would mean a home in Niskayuna valued at $250,000 would see a school tax bill increase of about $189.

The new spending cuts approved Wednesday night amount to more than $640,000. The cuts include the loss of 5.9 full-time-equivalent positions, consisting of one administrator, just less than one English as a second language position, one clerk and the outsourcing of three computer techs to BOCES.

District officials had originally proposed a 1.6-position reduction to sixth-grade foreign language, but board members chose to keep that in the budget.

In place of those cuts, which had been estimated at $88,000, the board accepted about $99,000 in cuts spread out over eight different line items, including reducing the late bus that serves after-school clubs to two times per week instead of three and reducing a total of one position but spreading that over three areas.

The new revenue consists of $200,000 in “bullet” aid from state Sen. Hugh Farley and Assemblyman Phil Steck. The two got the district a total of $375,000 in aid, but district officials said they wanted to be conservative with the one-time aid, holding some back for surplus.

The district also is close to completing a deal that would net $100,000 in rental income for unused space at the district’s bus garage.

The board also approved moving forward with oursourcing transportation in the district, with current drivers to be given preference for the outsourced positions. The move does carry some risk, officials have said, with the possibility of litigation from the affected bargaining unit. District officials believe they are in a strong position.

The budget now goes to voters. If voters reject it again, the board would have to adopt a contingency plan that would require $3 million in additional cuts.

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