KINDERHOOK — The Ichabod Crane School Board voted unanimously this week to adopt a $33-million contingency budget, a week after voters rejected a slightly larger proposal by a large majority. The budget adopted by the board Monday evening is $42,009 less than the proposed budget that failed at the polls May 17. The board cut all $31,000 allocated for the football program plus another $10,009 in pay increases for central office employees, student supplies and sports equipment.
The board held the special meeting May 23, and more than 100 community residents attended to hear the board members decide whether to hold a second vote in June or immediately approve a contingency budget that meets state spending limits.
Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick said the district had already made $3.9 million in spending reductions in the budget defeated by voters. A contingency budget would mean no pay increases for employees not in collective bargaining units, which he said would affect mostly people in the central office.
Under the state rules governing contingency budgets the district may not budget for student supplies and equipment, although those items can still be paid for by outside grants. The district may purchase safety and health equipment. The contingency plan also means the district must charge for use of school buildings, but Mr. Bordick said that can be a nominal fee.
After much public comment about the outcome of the May 17 school budget referendum, which failed by a vote of 1,594 No votes to 1,089 Yes, a student in the audience stood up and asked about the future of the football program. Since the program was revived three years ago, the team has been supported by the booster club, a private organization. The budget that failed would have added football to the district budget, making it a taxpayer expense.
Board president Andrew Kramarchyk said that there would not be football next year. The booster club raised $17,000 for the team this year, but that is not enough to cover the full cost of the program.
Board member John Phillips said that the board could amend the budget after it is passed to support football, and other board members supporting looking into ways to fund the program.
“It is about the money,” said Board member Regina Rose. The district is closing two school buildings and laying-off or otherwise eliminating the positions of 32 district employees. She warned that there are more cuts to made in the coming the years if state funding for public schools does not change.
The board conducted an exit survey handed out at the polling site for the annual vote. Many audience members asked for the results, and though the statistics class in the high school has not finished its calculations, several board members took stacks of the surveys home to review.
Board member Bruce Naramore said he was comfortable supporting the contingency budget without football after reviewing over 200 surveys. He said residents did not want to support the program in the budget.
Mr. Kramarchyk apologized for any polarization caused in the community by the board’s decision to include the football program in the budget. “As this played out… the community did speak,” he said. He and Mr. Bordick said that adopting the contingency budget would heal the rift that was created in the district over the vote.
The board also swore in a new member at the meeting. Susan Ramos, who won the largest number of votes in the school board election held at the same time as the budget vote. She fills the seat vacated by John Chandler, who was appointed to the board last year. Mr. Chandler will be a non-voting member of the board until July, when he will be sworn in at the organizational meeting to fill the seat held by a retiring board member. Mr. Kramarchyk, who won reelection, retains in his seat.
Cheryl Trefzger, who ran unsuccessfully for the board, attended the meeting and thanked all who voted for her. She is also a former president of the booster club and said she felt it was important to learn from the process. “I really want to see our town and community heal,” she said.
The next regular meeting will be Tuesday June 7 at 7pm. For more information go to www.ichabodcrane.org.