Niskayuna school board OKs budget with layoffs, 2.15% tax hike

NISKAYUNA – After much debate over the past few months, the Board of Education voted Tuesday to adopt a budget for the upcoming academic year  that calls for a 2.15 percent in school taxes.

The $90.8 million spending plan, which is right at the state tax cap and must now be approved by voters next month, also includes the layoffs of 16 full-time equivalent positions, a lower number than was initially proposed months ago when the panel begin reviewing the budget.

The fiscal plan also relies on about $4.2 million in fund balance or surplus, significantly more than the $1.5 million the district used in the current budget, $23.2 million in state aid and $390,000 in reserves.

The amount of fund balance was a sore point for Board Vice President Brian Backus, who cast the lone dissenting vote.

“I think we’re kicking the can down the road and this is not going to get better for the next year or two years,” he said. “I appreciate that I’m in the minority for that but I just can’t accept that.”

The tax levy or amount to be raised in taxes is $59.6 million.

For a home in Niskayuna assessed at $250,000, that translates into about $105 more per year in the school portion of their tax bill.

Voters are also being asked to consider a proposition to purchase eight buses for a total not to exceed $960,800.

Before the 6-1 budget vote, Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. told board members that nearly 21 positions had been restored.

Some of those positions include social workers at the elementary school, an middle school assistant principal, and a variety of courses at the high school in math, science, world language and physical education among others.

Jobs that were eliminated include the human resources director, several clerical positions and teaching assistants positions.

“We have inevitably restored the positions that we were directed to restore and kept out the positions that we were told could be kept out or that were going to be eliminated in the best of times,” he said.

Board Member Kimberly Tully took an optimistic view of the budget.

“I’m choosing to remain hopeful that things will get better,” she said. “I’m choosing to remain hopeful that we’ll see revenue come in that should have, and I’ve used that to frame my thinking with regard to this, and I think if we look at it from that perspective instead of fearing the worst, we can be hopeful.”

In Schenectady

Meantime,  neighboring Schenectady is slated Wednesday night to take action on its budget. The district also faces the prospects of layoffs depending on how much state foundation aid it receives. Schenectady was awarded $7.12 million in the current budget cycle.

Last week, Acting Superintendent Aaron Bochniak went over a few scenarios using state aid cuts ranging from $2.4 million to $7.5 million.

If the cuts were on the lower end of that spectrum, staff reductions of about seven employees would become necessary but there would not be any layoffs, according to a summary of the presentation posted on the district’s web site.

It also mentions that some vacant positions would be left open and the Office of Curriculum and Instruction would be reorganized to cover those vacancies plus any retirements and resignations. Dozens of layoffs would be almost certain if the state aid to Schenectady schools dropped anywhere between $5 million and $7.5 million.

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