G’town faces unfamiliar school board candidate shortage

GERMANTOWN–The Board of Education of the Germantown Central School District has two open seats in the May 16 election. And one candidate.

But ballot will have a budget proposal of $14.7-million, with spending almost the same as the current budget. The tax levy will rise by 2.7%.

The four-year term of board president Tammi Kellenbenz is ending. She announced in February that she would run again and filed the required designating petition.

One year remains in the term of former board member Jeremy Smith, who resigned in December 2016 due to health problems. Faydra Geraghty, who had previously served on the board for one term, was appointed to fill Mr. Smith’s seat until the election. She said in December 2016 that she would not run for the seat, and she did not file a designating petition.

That leaves two options, District Clerk Linda Anderson and longtime board member Ralph DelPozzo agreed. Voters can write in a candidate of their choice during the election, which could result in a board member elected with one vote, his or her own or, after the election, the board can appoint a new member.

“I’m disappointed, and surprised,” said Mr. DelPozzo, who is in his fourth four-year term on the board. “We have an active Booster Club, and an active PTSA.”

Ms. Kellenbenz, commenting by email, saw such activities as possibly preventing district residents from running for the board. “I see value in what we are doing as a board,” she said “This is what I chose to do—others are in the PTSA, involved with the Music Department, providing enrichment after school, running the website or working the concessions at games. All are important aspects to providing a well-rounded education to our students.”

The run-up to the election is seldom so quiet. Mr. Smith won his seat in 2014 when four candidates ran for two seats. Ms. Geraghty won her term in 2012 when five candidates vied for two seats. Last year, three candidates ran for two seats.

“I would like to think that [the lack of candidates] is because people are satisfied with the current board,” wrote Ms. Kellenbenz. “I do think people are more apt to become involved when there is a controversy.

“I am disappointed that no one else ran for the empty seats,” she wrote, “but there are many reasons why people may not run, mainly the time commitment. I have missed a few of my sons’ games because of meetings, but I chose to run again.

“I am not sure how to solve the problem,” she said.

Mr. DelPozzo, who is in his second stint of multiple terms on the board, recalled that the district had lacked a candidate some years ago, and had appointed someone.

In other business, the board approved a proposed budget that will be submitted to voters on May 16. The recommended expenditure is $14,790,612, just $5,802 (.04%) more than the 2016-17 budget. Total revenues are $14,328,249, requiring the use of $462,363 from the district’s unassigned fund balance.

Among the increases that the board approved during the budget process this spring were additional field trips ($10,000), a part-time custodian ($13,500), three students to the Bard Early College High School program in Hudson ($30,500), cheerleading (coach and transportation, $3,000), materials and supplies (20%, $11,000).

In addition to using the unassigned fund balance to augment revenue the budget relies on $91,000 from the district’s restricted reserve accounts to decrease the spending plan and comply with the state tax levy cap.

The proposed tax levy is $8,652,540, which is an increase of 2.71% above the current year’s budget. But that complies with the state tax levy cap calculation and the budget will only need a simple majority to win passage at the polls.

The board set a Public Hearing on the budget for Wednesday, May 3. Budget notices are to be mailed to all residents between May 3 and 10, and the district votes on Tuesday, May 16. Polls are open at the school, 123 Main Street, between noon and 9 p.m.

In addition to the mailing that goes out this week, the budget can be found on the district’s website, germantowncsd.org under District/Budget, or obtained from the school office.

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