Mohonasen voters to decide fate of budget, capital project

Mohonasen schools sign
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ROTTERDAM — Voters in May will decide the fate of a $64 million budget proposal and a $48 million capital project approved by the Mohonasen Central School District Board of Education this past week.

Spending under the proposed budget would increase by $4.2 million, the equivalent of 7%. The district’s tax levy would grow by $682,834 under the spending plan, or 2.25%, the maximum allowed under the district’s tax cap.

If approved, taxpayers with an assessed property value of $150,000 would see their school tax bill increase by $56, according to Chris Ruberti, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

“We have a philosophy from a long time ago when that tax cap came into play that we would always remain at or below that number, and that stays consistent,” he said.

The district is anticipating $31.7 million in state aid, a $4.4 million increase over the current spending plan. The increase is part of a commitment made by Gov. Kathy Hochul two years ago to fully fund the state’s Foundation Aid formula, which has historically been underfunded, leaving district’s to figure out ways to fill a budget gap.

State lawmakers are expected to approve a final budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year in the coming days, which is expected to include more than $24 billion in Foundation Aid aid for districts throughout New York. The package for school aid grew by nearly $1 million that anticipated due to soaring inflation that left some local school leaders concerned if the aid would be funded earlier this year.

Due to the expected increase in state aid, the district was able to reduce its reserve spending by just $1 million and increase instructional spending by just over $3 million, according to Ruberti, who said around half of the new instruction spending  the district will be adding several positions that we funded by federal coronavirus-relief funds into the general budget.

“One of the things to know about that instruction (spending) going up $3 million is that $1.5 million of that are grants that we had were staff was funded through and that money is going back into the general fund,” he said.

The district is also anticipating a $570,000 increase to employee benefits, which Ruberti attributed to “mostly health insurance costs.”

Voters must approve the proposed budget by a simple majority during a budget vote in May.

Also on the ballot will be a $48 million capital project that would see upgrades to each building throughout the district as well as upgrades to athletic facilities at the middle and high schools.

A bulk of the proposed project includes $36.6 million infrastructure upgrades, including new roofing, pavement and sidewalk renovations at each of the district’s building. Mechanical equipment and new hallway lighting will also be installed as part of the project.

In addition, the project calls for $3.9 million in health and safety upgrades, including reconfiguring the high school’s main entrance and ensuring access to the turf field at the high school is ADA compliant. Plans also call for adding additional parking to the field.

Plans also call for $7.1 million in academic and programmatic improvements, including classroom and cafeteria renovations at Bradt Primary School and locker room and library upgrades at the middle school. Network improvements would be made throughout the district as well.

The district is expecting the impact to taxpayers would be less than $10 a year for six years for a property with an assessed value of $150,000 beginning in 2025-26 academic year, when construction would begin should the project  be approved.

Expiring debt in the coming years would ease the burden on taxpayers and 83% of the project will be reimbursed through state aid, according to Ruberti.

Two school board positions will also appear on the ballot along with a $400,000 proposition to purchase two 24-passenger buses and two Chevrolet Suburbans at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The school budget vote will take place on May 16.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.

Categories: -News-, News, Rotterdam, Schenectady County

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