Parents tackle pigskin funds

ICC board hears concern about last-minute funding for football

KINDERHOOK — Community members angry about funding for the football team in a proposed budget that would cut programs and jobs, spoke out at this week’s Board of Education meeting.

Two weeks ago the board adopted a proposed $33-million budget, which includes $31,000 to support the football program. Most of the dozen people at the meeting said they felt the board had added the money for football at the last minute after a long, open budget process.

The board held six budget forums over the last four months, discussing with the audiences of over 100 at each meeting, the different budget lines. To keep the budget increase low, and come up with a 3.9% tax levy increase, the district is closing two elementary schools, cutting 32 staff positions and raising class sizes. All these cuts were discussed in detail at the budget forums.

Like most districts in the state, Ichabod Crane anticipated cuts in state aid this year, although some of the aid was restored right before the final budget meeting April 12.

For the last three years, the costs of the football team have been supported a booster club under a three-year pilot program approved by the board. The program expired this school year. On April 12, in a 5 to 3 vote, the board approved funding of $31,000 program, a decision that did not affect the tax levy increase.

Audience members at the Tuesday, April 26 board meeting stressed it wasn’t the amount of money the board approved or the football program itself; their concern was the transparency of the process of arriving at the decision. People talked about coming to budget meetings, never hearing about football and then the decision being made at the last meeting. “It’s about trust,” said one parent.

David Antolowitz, a taxpayer in the district, said at the meeting, he felt it was not right to add new programs when major cuts were being made. “I find myself in a very [awkward] position and I have to vote no on a school budget,” he said. His wife, Binnie Antolowitz, said she supported football in the district, just “not on my taxes.”

Board member Anthony Welcome was blunt about the board’s decision. “We screwed up big time,” he said, adding that he did not know how long it would take the board to regain the trust of the community.

Other board members said they wanted to put football in the budget so that community members would have a chance to make the decision about keeping or not. Bruce Naramore, who voted for the adding football, said he wanted it to come to a public vote. If the budget does not pass, he said, he would no longer support football. He also said the board looked into having a separate proposition in the budget but that was not possible

The booster club was at the meeting to hand over a check for $17,000 to offset costs in the school budget. Mike Myers, the president of the club, said they planned to rally residents to vote yes on the budget. They have posters and ads planned as well as using social media to get the word out.

Also in attendance at the meeting were two board candidates, Cheryl Trefzger, who a former president of the booster club, and Susan Ramos. There are three open seats on the board. Board president Andrew Kramarchyk and board member John Chandler are running for their seats, John Phillips is leaving the board.

Kinderhook Town Supervisor Pat Grattan and Village Mayor Gary Strevell, along with a few other village and town officials, also attended the meeting. They were there for a meeting with the Property Disposition Review Committee, which convened after the board meeting. The district is hoping to rent its two elementary schools, and the municipalities have expressed interest in using the Martin H. Glynn School in Valatie.

The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday May 3 at 7pm in the middle school library. The budget vote is May 17. For more information about the budget go to www.ichabodcrane.org.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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