KINDERHOOK – School board member, gearing up for a series of budget forums this winter, discussed the agendas this week for the two forums scheduled this month.
The board also approved the district’s plan to move ahead with applying for a shared service grant with three other school districts in Rensselaer County.
At the January 4 regular meeting the board heard from middle school student Devin Scherer about the mentoring program. Devin wrote an essay about his mentor, math teacher Barbara Ireland, for a competition sponsored by First Niagara Bank. His essay won the district $5,000 and Devin will get a $500 saving bond. “I started to like math because Ms. Ireland was my mentor,” Devin wrote in his essay, which he read to the board.
The board then went on to discuss contingency budgets and the possibility of a property tax cap in the state. Michele Levings, a representative from Questar III/BOCES, was at the meeting to explain what will happen if the district can’t pass its proposed budget in May. In years past, when voters rejected budgets the district would eventually operate under a so-called contingency budget, which limits increases in most district expenditures to 3% or less. But that will change if Governor Andrew Cuomo is successful in convincing both houses of the state legislature to adopt a property tax cap.
Ms. Levings said adoption of a property tax cap “will make the contingency budget moot.” In effect, the cap would impose a contingency budget-like limit even before voters have their say.
“There is not precedent for any of it,” said Board member John Antalek.
New York has never had a property tax cap, but Massachusetts and some other states have adopted measures similar to the one proposed by Governor Cuomo. The proposed cap plan includes a provision that would allow a super-majority of district voters to override the cap.
The board will be discussing budget issues at their upcoming forums on Tuesday January 11 and 25. The forums will be held at 7 p.m. in the High School Auditorium.
The board also plans to discuss the feasibility of closing one or both of the district’s elementary schools. Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick said school officials would be looking into the cost savings of closing a building and moving students to the main campus on Route 9.
The forum on January 25 will be a discussion of all high school electives. Mr. Bordick will begin the forums by discussing the issues with the audience and then opening the floor to public comment. He said the district office is still collecting the data to present, so the board will receive that information for the first time at the forum.
Board member John Phillips announced that he will not run for his seat again this May and said the community members interested in running for the board should come to the meetings and hear the issues. He said anyone interested in running for the board could get information from the district office.
As the board looks at cutting more from the budget and dealing with worst case scenarios, members also entered into an agreement with the Lansingburgh, Rensselaer, Schodack and Troy school districts to apply for a $50,000 grant to look into sharing district office services. The Ichabod Crane School District will contribute $1,000 toward moving ahead with the grant application.
The district is currently working on a grant-funded feasibility study with the Schodack School District to look into combining services. In the new shared services grant application, the Lansingburgh district would act as lead agency. Mr. Bordick said that moving forward with this grant application did not preclude sharing services with other districts in Columbia County.
The school board will meet again next week for the forum; the next regular meeting will be Tuesday, February 1 at 7 p.m. in the Middle School Library.