KINDERHOOK — Emotions ran high on both sides of the football issue at the regular Ichabod Crane school board meeting this week, as the board approved a $34-million budget proposal, with a 3.98% tax levy increase, which includes $31,000 for the football program.
At a previous meeting April 12, the culmination of a long budget process, the board added funding for the football program, which for the last three years was paid for by the district booster club. That meeting also produced strong reactions from those attending. As part of the proposal the board also approved closing two elementary schools and cutting 32 staff positions.
Dr. William Murphy, a former board member, said at the Tuesday, May 3 meeting, “You have made a profound mistake at the last minute.” He also said that there would more costs in the future if the district adds football and the district’s academic programs would suffer.
Other parents in the audience said that football improved academics. A student who plays on the football talked about how being a well-rounded student would help on college applications. A father talked about studies that he said show students’ grades improve while they play on sports.
Many football supporters stressed that the board had done nothing legal by adding some of the costs for football to the budget. “No rules were broken,” said Dennis Shields, the president of the Booster Club. Others urged district residents not to vote against the budget because it includes football. “Don’t take this out on my children,” said Trisha Gerkman, a mother of four students in the district. Some speakers said that they would seek to defeat the budget based on the inclusion of the football program.
When asked what would happen if the budget did not pass at the May 17 vote, Interim-Superintendent Lee Bordick said the board would have two choices: the district can impose a so-called contingency budget, which would mean more cuts, or the board can rework the budget and present a revised plan to the public in June.
Board member Thomas Neufeld said he did not support the adoption of a contingency budget and would support taking football out for a second vote.
The board plans to hand out an exit survey at the May 17 vote to learn the reasons why people made their choices on the proposal. Football is not mentioned on the survey form and when questioned about adding it, board member John Chandler said, “I think if you are going to add football you have to put in everything.”
Mr. Bordick said there wasn’t much to cut from the budget if the board has to go make changes for a second vote. “There is no margin for error… that’s how tight it is,” he said of the proposed budget.
Board President Andrew Kramarchyk, who was among the majority of the board that approved adding football to the budget, stood by the decision at the meeting, saying, “I’ve served this district for six years and I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done here.” He said he is running for reelection this May and voters could choose to vote him out.
There are three seats open on the board and four people are running. Mr. Kramarchyk and fellow board member John Chandler are incumbent candidates; Susan Ramos and Cheryl Trefzger have also submitted petitions and are on the ballot.
Landra Haber announced at the meeting that she is running as a write-in candidate for the board. Ms. Haber served on the board for 13 years. She said the board had broken the covenant with the public by supporting football.
Since this was a regular board meeting, there was also an agenda of other matters, which included discussing the functional consolidation study the district is conducting with the Schodack Central School District. The board appointed 15 community members to sit on a committee with 15 Schodack residents and look at data collected by the study. The committees will meet at a session open to the public Thursday, May 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the High School Library.
The next board meeting will be the budget hearing Tuesday, May 10 at 7 p.m. in the Middle School Library.