GERMANTOWN—Two district residents are running for the one open, four-year term on the Board of Education. Both say they are happy with the education offered to district students and they want to keep it that way.
“I’m very pleased with the quality of education my sons have received in the elementary school,” Tammi Kellenbenz wrote in an email. Her twin boys are 12 and in the sixth grade. “I want to work with the faculty, staff, administration and community to continue to offer a quality level of service with the limited resources available,” she said.
“Germantown is second to none in Columbia County,” said Donald Coons, citing the 2011-12 state school assessment. “I’d like to be there to support both the student and the taxpayer.”
Ms. Kellenbenz, 41, lives in Livingston. She grew up in Queensbury and holds a B.A. from SUNY Potsdam and an M.A. in secondary education from SUNY Albany. She moved to this area in 1999 when she married Ken Kellenbenz.
Ms. Kellenbenz has taught social studies at Catskill High School for 14 years. She currently teaches the subject to 9th and 10 graders. In Germantown, she sits on the board of directors of the Germantown After School program and has coached soccer for the Southern Columbia Soccer League. This is her first run for office.
“I believe my background in education could be valuable to the Board of Education as it plans for the future of the district,” she said. “I want my sons to have the opportunity to take challenging classes while enjoying the ‘perks’ of school, like music, art, technology and after-school activities and sports.”
She concluded, “I am a product of the NYS public education system and I want my children to have the same opportunities that I did.”
Mr. Coons, 61, has been a county resident all his life. He was born in Hudson, lived in Livingston and has lived in Gallatin since 1970. He and his four children are all graduates of the Germantown Central School.
Mr. Coons retired six years ago from Becton Dickinson, an international medical technology company, where he worked in Canaan, CT, as a production mechanic for robotic machines. He has served on the Germantown Board of Education for a total of 19 years, beginning in 1990. After a time off the board, he then served again until two years ago, he said, when he lost in an election that brought Ronald Moore and Brittany Dufresne to the board.
Mr. Coons is running again because, he said, he believes the board and administration are using “scare tactics” at budget time regarding school debt and the resulting need to cut programs for students. Over the last few years, the district has continued to have a surplus of more than $1 million, he said (a “fund balance” in the budget). “I don’t think we need to cut programs if we have a surplus,” he said, and he wants to be an advocate for students and taxpayers alike.
The GCSD proposed budget for 2013-14, on which voters cast ballots on Tuesday, May 21, is $13, 535, 368, down 1.48% from the current spending plan of $13,739,364. This reduction was achieved with cuts in the categories of instruction (down $264,896) and transportation and community service (down $40,000). Other categories increased, resulting in the overall reduction of $203,996.
Among the anticipated revenues are $499,995 to be taken from the fund balance, a decision the board made in an effort to keep the tax increase low. Last year a tax increase of 5.2%—well over the state-mandated 2.0% cap—failed at the polls.
The proposed tax levy is $8,423,147, with a projected tax increase of 2.0%. The district includes all or part of six towns—Ancram, Clermont, Gallatin, Germantown, Livingston and Taghkanic—and each town has a different equalization rate. The state does not fix those rates until summer, so the district does not provide an actual tax rate in time for the vote.
The poll is open in the school lobby at 123 Main Street from noon to 9 p.m. on May 21.