G’town school board wrestles with $1.1M gap

Consensus now favors 2 capital propositions at a June referendum

GERMANTOWN—At its April 15 meeting, the Board of Education of the Germantown Central School District postponed two financial decisions until a special meeting it set for April 22.

In the meantime, two candidates filed petitions with the requisite number of signatures, 25, to run for the school board. Teresa Repko served on the board for two four year-terms and then declined to run last year. Monday she said she was “ready to come back. Eight years of those budgets was tough, but I followed things while I was off the board and am now ready to help with the budgets and with working out the finances for the school renovations.”

Andrea Provan ran previously for Town Board and has not held public office. Ms. Provan is a nurse practitioner who works in Health Services for Bard College. She could not be reached for comment by press time.

Before the two are likely to take their seats in July, the board will decide on a budget for 2015-2016 that currently stands at $14,500,850. The revenues for that budget (taxes, state aid, interest) amount to $13, 307,740, leaving $1,193,110 short of what it needs to balance the budget, as required by law.

While the state property tax cap is generally said to be 2%, in fact it is calculated using a complicated state formula that leaves the Germantown School District with a 1.37% tax cap this year. One way the district can cover the shortfall and not raise the tax levy by more than 1.37% would be to use money from the district’s unassigned fund balance.

An alternative discussed by the board was making cuts in the budget to offer a budget with a 0% tax levy increase for the third year in a row.

Ron Moore, president of the board, spoke in favor of another year at 0%, while board Vice President Tammi Kallenbenz advocated the 1.37% tax increase. Mr. Moore pointed out that increasing the tax levy 1.37% would only contribute $110,000 toward the shortfall.

Business manager Catherine Gomm agreed to crunch some numbers for the April 22 meeting, looking at possible cuts in the budget and running figures for how different tax levies would affect property values.

The Public Hearing on the budget is scheduled for Wednesday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the school cafetorium, 123 Main Street.

Continuing the discussion of what kind of capital project to put before the voters, after the previous project lost by 33 votes, Benjamin Maslona of Fiscal Advisors & Marketing, Inc. reviewed the costs of various options and the state aid available for them.

On total project costs of either $6.2 million or $11.3 million (the higher cost option includes a new addition to the school building), the annual local share would be $200,042 or $435,939, respectively. Further, noted Mr. Maslona, “a tax increase would not affect the district until the 2020-2021 fiscal year. It’s important that residents know that their taxes will not go up next year.” Designing renovations, getting state approval for them, then building them, all take time, he said.

Mr. Moore polled the board and the consensus was to offer voters two proposals in a new referendum. Mr. Moore said he was concerned that two proposals were more confusing than one, and he would rather have just one proposal, but he went with the consensus. The vote will take place sometime in June.

The proposed addition is not just an auditorium, said board member Brittany DuFresne; it includes two new classrooms, bleachers in the gym, rest rooms and a new entrance. “I don’t think the public understood that” for the last vote, she said. “We have to be diligent in explaining this.”

An audience member urged that the information be broken down “to the individual level,” so that it tells voters how much the proposals would raise taxes on houses assessed at specific values.” That type of specific information makes the projects “grasp-able,” she said.

The district’s counsel was scheduled to bring proposals to the April 22 meeting for a board vote. Then the Community Facilities Committee, which developed the original proposals, will be asked again to host information meetings and inform the public about the project’s details in other ways.

In other business:

  • Board member Jeremy Smith said he would draft a letter for board consideration April 22 that would object to the testing facet of the Common Core Curriculum. “As a national curriculum, Common Core is a good thing,” said Mr. Smith. “The problem is it hasn’t been brought in with enough planning, training or understanding of what it’s supposed to do.”

Ms. Kallenbenz suggested that the board pass a resolution that “we are not comfortable with or support the implementation of Common Core. We’re losing control of our school,” she said.

“You can take whatever stand you want, individually,” said Mr. Moore. “What you say has value, but it’s something the community should do; I’m not sure the board should do it.”

As of April 14, 60.6 percent of Germantown students had refused to take the Common Core tests given the week of April 13, reported Superintendent Susan Brown

  • The Odyssey of the Mind team, which is going on to the World Finals at Michigan State University, May 20-23, received congratulations as did the boys varsity basketball team, which was 21 and 3 and won its third sectional championship in eight years. The board also congratulated valedictorian Kylie Ann Pecord, salutatorian Joshua Henry Wynant and their teachers and parents.

 

 

 

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