Slim turnout for TH vote still showed improvement

CRARYVILLE–In the May 16 election Taconic Hills School District board member Ronald Morales won re-election to another 5-year term, with 243 votes. Austerlitz resident Alicia O’Rourke, also won election to a 5-year term, with 181 votes. She will replace Harvey Weber. Ms. O’Rourke, who has two school-age children, is a graduate of the district and has volunteered in the classroom and with the PTO.

Taconic Hills voters also approved a $37,453,541 budget, funded in part by a 1.4% tax levy increase, for the 2017-18 school year. The measure won year with 354 votes for the budget versus 86 votes against.

In addition, voters approved a resolution to purchase two school buses and one passenger vehicle, not to exceed $230,000. That proposition passed by a vote of 351 to 86. The vehicles will be bought with Capital Reserve Fund monies.

Voters registered the strongest opposition to increasing the Capital Reserve Fund by $2 million dollars to a total of 5 million dollars. On that ballot proposition 119 opposed the plan but it was supported by 314 votes and was adopted.

School District Clerk Melissa Layman noted at last week’s meeting after the election that that only 440 people, representing 6% of eligible voters, participated in the election. Nevertheless that is an increase of 100 voters compared to last year. District Superintendent Neil Howard Jr. said that the district conducted a first-ever exit survey of voters to help determine how to generate stronger voter turnout in the future.

In other business at the May meeting:

• The board unanimously voted to extend Superintendent Howard’s contract through 2020. Members Kevin Maisenbacher and Harvey Weber were not in attendance

• Mr. Howard presented a report from Cafeteria Manager Pamela Strompf regarding changes under the Trump administration in the National School Lunch Program regulations for sodium, whole grains and milk nutritional content. Regulations set under the Obama Administration called for a general reduction in sodium ranging from 295-340 mgs, an increase from 50% to 100% whole grain, and offering fat free chocolate milk. School lunches, in 2017-18, will offer 1% chocolate milk and will keep the higher sodium and lower whole grain levels.

Ms. Strompf’s report also noted that as of April 1 of this year, 58% of Taconic Hills students qualify for free and reduced lunches with 35% of students directly certified for free lunch benefits; 40% direct certification is the threshold for all the district’s students to receive free lunch benefits

• Director of Facilities Nicholas Smith reported that 70% of the faucets in the school’s science labs have been replaced due to unacceptable levels of lead and that automatic flushes for the bathrooms will be installed over the summer.

The next meeting of the Taconic Hills School District Board of Education is scheduled for Wednesday, July 12 in the Board Room at 6:30 p.m.

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