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What you need to know for 08/18/2017

Niskayuna school board aims to nail down budget tonight

Niskayuna school board aims to nail down budget tonight

The first school board meeting since the announcement Friday of the district superintendent’s depart

The first school board meeting since the announcement Friday of the district superintendent’s departure could see the approval of the budget that will go to voters.

Still to be decided is who will lead the district after Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio’s departure April 15. Helping with that interim selection will be Capital Region BOCES. The school board president is expected to meet with BOCES officials later this week.

The big decision tonight is what tax levy percentage increase will go to voters next month. The increase currently sits at 2.81 percent. But it could go as low as 1.81 percent, depending on how the board decides to use just over $500,000 in unexpected state aid.

Tonight’s meeting is the first gathering of the board since Friday morning’s meeting, during which the board approved a separation agreement with Salvaggio.

She is to receive a $139,000 payout as part of the deal, as well as paid health care.

The board voted early Friday 4 to 3 to accept the deal for Salvaggio’s departure. Salvaggio’s contract was up June 30, 2015.

A district statement on her departure, agreed to by both sides, acknowledged disagreements and “philosophical differences” between the board and Salvaggio. It did not detail those further.

The superintendent situation is not on tonight’s agenda.

With Salvaggio’s departure, the board has said it intends to first hire an interim superintendent, then work on its search for a new full-time top administrator.

Salvaggio’s last official day is April 15.

Board President Deborah Oriola did not have a full timetable to name an interim superintendent, but she said the board will work with Capital Region BOCES to find one. Oriola said she is scheduled to meet with officials there later this week to learn more.

If an interim head isn’t found by the time Salvaggio officially departs, Oriola said there would be an acting superintendent.

“There will be someone in charge if we don’t have an interim named,” Oriola said.

Tonight, the board is expected to vote on the proposed $77.3 million budget at the 7 p.m. meeting after getting some last questions answered and figuring out the final tax levy increase percentage.

The district’s once-dire budget outlook for 2014-2015 became less dire last month as the board received a spending plan with a 2.81 percent tax levy increase that retained all current programs.

The budget came in with that percentage through administrative restructuring, savings from retirements and the use of unspent money left over from previous budget years.

The mark is well below the district’s 4.52 percent tax cap. But the board is considering using at least a portion of the unexpected state aid to reduce it further.

If it is all used to reduce the levy, it could go as low as 1.81 percent. Some board members have suggested a middle ground that lowers the increase further while keeping some of the money in reserves for looming expenses.

Board member Robert Winchester said he still wants to look at middle school enrollment to ensure there is enough staff there.

“The $500,000 helps us a great deal, but we do have some things pending in the future that we have to be prepared for,” Winchester said.

Tonight’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the Van Antwerp Middle School auditorium. The next regular board meeting is April 22.

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