G’town district has crowded race, high hurdle

GERMANTOWN–Voters in the Germantown Central School District have a choice of five candidates to fill two open Board of Election seats and will decide whether to adopt a $13,678,668 budget for the district.

The budget is smaller by $263,933, or 1.9%, compared to the current year’s $13,942,601 spending plan. The reduction was arrived at during months of wrangling by the school board and Superintendent Patrick Gabriel, and extended discussion in well-attended public meetings.

Despite the lower dollar number, the board is proposing a 5.2% tax levy. The district serves the towns of Germantown, Livingston, Clermont and parts of Gallatin and Ancram. Each town has a different equalization rate, and that rate is not fixed by the state until midsummer, so the tax levy increase is approximate.

Nevertheless, the tax levy will be well above the nominal 2% cap set by state law, which requires that the budget receive 60% or more of vote in order to pass.

The board is asking the public to pay a greater share of the budget ($8.5 million) because of a reduction in state aid and an effort to keep some fund balance in reserve. State aid is estimated at $4.3 million, and the budget proposes spending $668,308 of the reserve fund.

Mr. Gabriel stressed throughout the budget negotiations the necessity of keeping some funds in reserve for use every year for the next three years.

The board’s vote to place this budget on the ballot was close: 4 to 3, with Ralph DelPozzo, Eric Mortenson and Ronald Moore voting against it, while board president Lynn Clum and members Brittany DuFresne, David Forman and Teresa Repko voted for it.

Mr. DelPozzo and Mr. Mortenson have since said that they support the budget as it goes to the public; Mr. Moore could not be reached by press deadline.

If Mr. DelPozzo and Mr. Mortenson now support the budget, it’s because the alternative looks worse. If the budget fails to garner 60% approval, the board may submit a revised proposal (or the same proposal) on June 19.

If that fails, the district reverts to a contingency budget, with a 0% cap on the tax levy increase, without adjustments for contractual obligations or any other costs, mandated or not, according to a BOCES information sheet.

Further, a contingency budget prohibits a district from spending any money in certain areas, including, among others, community use of school facilities, new equipment purchases and certain field trips and student supplies.

The candidates for school board and an excerpt from their election statements follow.

Ralph DelPozzo (incumbent): Noting that he is “very often” asked why he wants “such a thankless job” as school board member, Mr. DelPozzo said: “Every time I see a child smile, it is all worthwhile knowing that I can do my part in seeing that all children get a good quality education. I also am always concerned about our senior citizens and all taxpayers.”

Nicholas Ertle: “My initiative to campaign for a GCSD Board of Education position comes from my direct involvement and routine experience with our school, observations and community feedback. I believe we need strong leadership and an environment of inclusiveness that embraces democratic principles. I advocate more transparency and greater accountability to our community.”

David Forman (incumbent): After 11 years on the board, he says, “I have learned that the only way to ensure stability is to steer the long course, and refrain from making decisions that may seem easy in the short run, but that imperil our children’s future.

“I encourage community engagement and involvement in GCS’s decision making. We depend on our dedicated faculty, staff and administrators for their professional expertise, but we serve the community, and we must serve responsibly. Sometimes that means making tough decisions.”

Faydra Rekow Geraghty: Noting that she is a graduate of GCS, Ms. Geraghty said, “I believe GCS should continue to provide an excellent education to our youth, whether it becomes a path for entrance into college, or the trades. We need to give a first-rate education while we control our taxes. We need honest transparency.”

Stephen Savoris: Noting that for years he has attended school board meetings monthly, Mr. Savoris said he decided the time had come for him to have a vote on the board, not just observe it. His goals, he said, are to “save GCS, maintain a disciplined classroom environment and support hard-working teachers.” Lynn Polidoro, his wife, has taught English in the district for 10 years.

The board election and budget vote are Tuesday, May15. Polls are open in the Main Street lobby of the Germantown Central School from noon to 9 p.m.

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