KINDERHOOK – Voters in the Ichabod Crane Central School District rejected the proposed $34-million budget Tuesday by 505 votes, with over 60% of those who turned out voting against the spending plan. The board now has to decide whether to hold a special election in June or move directly to a contingency budget that imposes limits on spending set by the state.
But as wide as the margin was in the Kinderhook district, the defeat in Hudson was far greater. The Hudson City School District budget called for a 10% increase in the tax levy, and only 424 voters in favor of the proposal, while 1,248, or three-quarters of the electorate that turned out for the vote, disapproved of the plan. For all that, the Hudson Board voted Tuesday night to adopt the budget voters had just resoundingly defeated. This was an option for Hudson because its budget proposal raises spending by less than the cost-of-living limit the state imposes with contingency budgets.
Budgets in each of the other four public school districts in the county – Chatham, Germantown, New Lebanon and Taconic Hills, were adopted by comfortable margins.
The defeated ICC budget included the closing of two school buildings and 32 staff cuts. But it also added $31,000 for support the football program. For the last three years the district’s football program has been funded by the booster club.
ICC District Clerk Mindy Potts said that the 2,627 machine votes cast and 83 absentee ballots that arroved by Tuesday, May 17 represented a high turnout for the district. The final tally on the budget was 1,594 no votes versus 1,089 yes. Last year 1,653 machine votes were cast and there were 52 absentee ballots. The district has seen higher turnout in the recent past – in 2005 a budget was defeated and at the second vote 3,347 residents turned out to vote.
After months of budget meetings, where Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick presented detailed budget information to the board while hundreds of residents attended the open meetings, the board voted 5 to 3 to add the cost of football to the budget. The booster club then donated $17,000 its members had raised to offset the costs.
That decision led some residents to attend recent meetings where they expressed their anger at the board for adding the football program after a long, transparent budget process during which it seemed the program would not be funded. The board did discuss the football program at budget meetings in February and early April, but some who some who spoke said they felt the board snuck in the final vote at the last budget hearing April 12.
Though the budget failed, two board members who voted to add football where reelected. Board President Andrew Kramarchyk, with 1,259 votes, and John Chandler, with 1287, will keep their seats for three-year terms. Both men came in about 300 votes behind newcomer Susan Ramos, who received 1582. Candidate Cheryl Francoeur Trefzger and write-in candidate Landra Haber lost their bids for election to the board.
Board member Regina Rose, who voted against adding football to the budget, said in an email to the Columbia Paper after the vote that she appreciated the large voter turnout. “I think the results of this election and budget vote are a clear indication that the priorities of this community are in the right place.”
She said the district focus in these difficult financial times should be preserving academics. “Although some may see the football issue as dividing the community, I believe it acted as a catalyst to turn people’s attention to the problems facing public education.”
Emails to district administrators and a former president of the booster club were not returned by deadline.
The board can now rework the budget and come back to the district voters in June to hold one more budget vote. Ms. Potts said at a board meeting earlier this month that holding the election again would cost the district around $4,000.
If voters reject a second budget proposal, the district must adopt a contingency budget, which means there can be little increase in spending compared to the current year’s budget and it is likely that more cuts will have to be made. The board plans to meet on Monday May 23. Details will be posted on the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org.
In Hudson, district Business Manager Daniel Barrett said that the when the public fails to approve a school budget, the district is allowed by law to bypass the option for a second public vote and adopt a contingency budget immediately. But the district’s budget was already below the levels set by the state’s contingency spending increase limit of 1.6%, so after the results were in, the board voted to adopt it.
Along with the contingency budget comes the need to charge rentals reflecting real costs to groups wanting to use school facilities (fields, auditorium, gyms, cafeterias, pool) for non-school programs. The budget calls for 28 job cuts and the depletion of the district’s capital reserve fund, and still the tax levy would go up.
Reporter Debora Gilbert contributed to this story.
School District Elections
May 17, 2011
* indicates passed or elected
Chatham Central School District
Bus purchase (Proposition 1)
Student representative on school board (Proposition 2)
(3 seats for 3-year terms, 1 seat for unexpired term)
*Frances Iaconetti 455
*James Marks 479
*James Toteno 451
*James Cartin 86 (write-in, term expires 6/30/2013)
Alan Miller (write-in) 10
Germantown Central School District
(2 seats for 4-year terms)
Donald Coons 210
Cynthia Smith 219
*Brittany Bohnsack-Dufresne 272
*Ronald E. Moore, II 268
Hudson City School District
(1 seat for 3-year term, 2 seats for 1-year;
most votes gets 3-year seat)
*Peter Rice, Jr. 1,060
*Jeri Chapman 951
*Racquel (Kelly) Frank 1,068
Ichabod Crane Central School District
(3 seats for 3-year terms)
* Susan Ramos 1,594
*John Chandler 1,287
*Andrew Kramarchyk 1,250
Cheryl Trefzger 1,158
New Lebanon Central School District
Capital Reserve fund of up to $450,000 for bus garage, roof projects (Proposition 2)
(2 seats for 3-year terms)
*Christine Sotek (vote not available)
*Michael Bienes (write-in vote not available)
Taconic Hills Central School District
(2 seats for 5-year terms)
Justin Kutski 396
George W. Langonia, Jr. 345
Arnold T. Anderson 143
*Christine Perry 551
*Steve H. Argus 412