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What you need to know for 08/19/2017

Crunch time for Niskayuna schools

Crunch time for Niskayuna schools

Closing a school looks like only way to appease enough voters

Niskayuna taxpayers made it abundantly clear Tuesday that they don’t like high taxes — regardless of the excuse for them and regardless of what it might mean to their prized school system — when they resoundingly shot down a budget that would have raised the school district’s tax levy by 5.76 percent.

That would have been well above the cost of living, of course. It would have also been well above the district’s more-generous-than-average tax cap which, at 4.66 percent, was more than double the basic 2 percent cap the state imposed a couple years ago.

Taxpayers don’t care whether it’s the rising cost of pensions or pencils, or falling state aid to blame when their checkbooks are being drained, and Niskayuna needed at least 60 percent of voters to sign off on this year’s budget plan. The margin wasn’t even close, with only 44 percent voting in favor. And with heavier-than-normal turnout, it’s going to be hard for anyone to argue that the vote didn’t reflect the community’s stance on taxes vs. education.

Early in this year’s budget deliberations, the school board considered but ultimately rejected closing Van Antwerp Middle School. At that point, the budget would have produced a 12 percent tax hike. Slightly more state aid than expected and several rounds of nickel-and-diming by the board brought the expected tax hike down, but still not enough for most taxpayers. District officials who, at the time, promised to reconsider the Van Antwerp closing if the budget failed, now seem to have little choice.

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