By LEVI PASCHER
Fulton County Express
The voters of Fulton County school districts will have big decisions to make next week as several districts will have budgets, capital projects, board members and proposals decided by the community.
On Tuesday, May 17 the community will cast their ballots on the budgets and proposals local Board of Education members and administrators have been crafting for several months.
While the exact figures and decisions for each school community are different, local officials said the decisions next week will be important for the educational and operational outlook going forward into the 2016-17 school year and beyond.
Gloversville Enlarged School District
District residents will go to the polls to vote on a proposed $60,851,235 school budget for 2016-17 that decreases spending by more than 4 percent and calls for no increase in the tax levy from the current year.
If the budget is approved, spending in the district would go down 4.02 percent, or $2,548,074, from the current year.
According to the district, the budget decrease is the result of staff reductions made through retirements and the planned early elimination of debt payments associated with the 2010 high school gymnasium construction.
“Through staff reductions and a state aid increase, we are able to maintain programs in our schools and maintain local taxes at their current level,” Superintendent Michael Vanyo said. “During the past four years, the district has implemented programs and initiatives to increase our graduation rate and prepare students for college and careers. We continue to move forward.”
Even with no increase in taxes, district officials said GESD’s 2016-17 budget would require a 60 percent majority approval of voters to pass, under the state’s tax levy cap formula.
District officials said because of low inflation last year, districts were required to use a near-zero growth factor into their tax levy cap formula with some districts, including Gloversville, faced with a negative tax cap calculation.
Gloversville’s negative tax cap calculation is the result of the district’s early pay-off of the GHS gym construction debt. Settling the debt early strengthened the district’s overall long-term finances, but it lowered the tax levy limit calculation.
Included in the GESD’s state aid increase for next year is $257,549 in one-time Community Schools grant money. The funding can only be used for community schools initiatives such as academic, health and social services for students and families. School districts are waiting for final guidance from the state regarding how these funds can be used.
District voters will also elected three members to the Board of Education. Current board members Vincent Salvione, Kevin Kucel and Robert Curtis have all filed the necessary petitions to seek an additional term.
Polls will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Gloversville High School Gymnasium, 199 Lincoln St., and in Bleecker Town Hall, 105 County Hwy 112.
Greater Johnstown School District
The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education has approved a $33.4 million budget for the 2016-17 school year, which features a 1.6 percent increase in the tax levy.
According to the district, the proposed $33,359,454 budget calls for a 0.18 percent spending increase over this year’s budget which totaled $33.3 million. The projected tax levy would increase by $127,425, or 1.62 percent, for a total levy of $8,016,582.
District Superintendent Robert DeLilli said in order to address increasing costs and years of relatively flat state and federal aid, some reductions were made in proposed expenditures and staffing positions.
DeLilli said positions vacated in the last year were examined to see if responsibilities could shift to another area and course offerings were reviewed to see where they could be combined to reduce personnel and generate savings.
The biggest increase within the proposed spending plan is employee benefits which is up by $674,006 over the previous year.
Since the district’s proposed budget meets the state’s tax levy limit requirements it will only need a simple majority of voters to approve it in order to be adopted.
Also during the vote residents will be asked to consider whether the district may spend up to $467,264 from its Bus Reserve Fund to purchase three 66-passenger buses and buy-out an emergency bus lease made during the 2014-15 school year for a 66 passenger wheelchair bus.
Officials previously said the fund allows the district to continue upgrading its fleet by replacing older buses on a schedule based on mileage, vehicle age, repair history and condition, with no impact on local taxes.
Voters will also have the opportunity to elect three members to the Board of Education for three year terms to begin on July 1, 2016. The qualified residents receiving the most votes fill the vacancies.
The public will cast their ballots in the high school auditorium lobby, between 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., on Tuesday, May 17.
Broadalbin-Perth Central School District
Residents of the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District will vote on a proposed $33,987,995 budget for the 2016-17 school year. The proposed budget calls for a 3.45 percent spending increase and a tax levy increase of 1.9 percent, which is below the district’s calculated tax levy cap of 2.28 percent.
Since the budget proposal is below the cap a simple majority of voters is required for budget approval.
If the proposed budget is approved by voters, district officials said they would maintain all current programs and services.
According to the district, nearly all of the proposed spending increase can be attributed to the rising costs of health insurance premiums, about $925,000.
District leaders said they balanced the budget thanks in part to savings on the cost of utilities and a reduction in various supply budgets.
The district is also using unspent money from the 2015-16 budget as revenue in 2016-17.
Residents of the district will also vote on a $39.7 million capital project proposal that would address health and safety concerns and urgent infrastructure needs, modernize learning spaces, and create operational efficiencies district-wide.
The district’s financial advisor estimates that the owner of a home with a full-market value of $100,000 with the Basic STAR exemption would see a maximum increase of $55 on his or her September 2020 tax bill; the owner of a similar home with Enhanced STAR exemption would see a maximum increase of $27 on his or her September 2020 tax bill.
School Business Administrator Marco Zumbolo said this would be a one-time tax increase and there would be no additional tax increases as a result of the project.
According to the district, state building aid would pay for approximately 80 percent of the project and the remaining 20 percent would come from the district. The Board of Education previously committed to applying savings from the Perth solar project toward the local share, which is an estimated $3.6 million over the life of the project.
The capital project would expand parking and redesign traffic flow at both campuses to improve safety; replace windows, flooring and roofing; improve energy efficiencies at both campuses; replace telephones, clocks and public address systems at both campuses; renovate classrooms; and create innovative wings at both campuses using existing classroom space.
The project also includes reorganizing the schools so that students in pre-K through grade 6 will attend school at the Perth campus and students in grades 7-12 will attend school at the Broadalbin campus, which district officials say would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the academic program by having one elementary and one secondary location.
The project would also create secure entrances at both campuses; cafeteria renovations; constructing a new high school media center and rehabilitating athletic fields which includes replacing the turf at Patriot Field and resurfacing the track.
The voters will also elect two people to represent them on the Board of Education. The candidates that will appear on the ballot includes: Stephen Syzdek, Ryan Crane, David Huckans and Michelle Simonds.
The candidate who receives the most votes will be elected to a five-year term, filling the seat currently held by William Boswell, whose term will expire June 30, 2016.
The candidate who receives the second-most votes will fill the remainder of the term of Erin Mitchell, who resigned her seat on the board in December.
The voters will also see a proposal to purchase school buses and vans, and another proposal to purchase 3.8 acres of land adjacent to the Perth campus. Zumbolo said owning the land would allow the district to create a separate campus entrance for parent and visitor parking and student pick-up and drop-off.
Mayfield Central School District
District Superintendent Jon Peterson said the proposed 2016-17 budget unanimously approved by the Board of Education on April 19 includes several program initiatives affecting students from pre-school to graduation.
The $17,504,418 budget increases spending by 3.06 percent over the current school budget and carries a tax decrease of 0.66 percent – meeting Mayfield’s state tax levy cap.
“We are going to decrease the expense on our taxpayers,” Peterson said.
Peterson pointed to several program improvements in the budget proposal that will help students succeed in the classrooms in the years ahead.
He said one of the major changes would be the addition of a full-time pre-kindergarten program. The district currently operates two half-day programs.
“Pre-kindergarten is so important to get a child off on the right start in school,” said Peterson. “Early literacy and numeracy is critical for young learners.”
He said the new full-day class will be provided to area residents that sign their children up but if the full-day class is full he said the students attending would be selected on a lottery basis.
“It would be great if parents preferences worked out with the numbers but we realize that may not occur and we will come up with a lottery to make it fair for any family interested in the program,” Peterson said.
The district will also be expanding the library’s media specialist position from half-time to full-time. Peterson said this would be valuable for students using the library for research and work.
Another new addition within the budget would be the creation of a Director of Student Services to administer and supervise all aspects of special education within the district.
Peterson said all current programs are maintained within the proposed budget.
He said the 2016-17 budget was able to make the additions and continuation of programs because the proposal also tightens spending in several ways.
The superintendent said the district was able to lower costs across the board for materials and supplies.
Peterson said the budget planning was assisted by the restoration of the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment, which provided $313,224 in funding, instead of being returned to the state.
“We got a pretty significant increase in state aid due to the GEA being eliminated entirely,” he said. “That was tremendous and we also have five retirements, which will be a great savings for our district.”
Peterson said the five retirements that will occur at the end of the year include: an elementary reading specialist, two high school math teachers, a high school English teacher and a special education teacher.
He said although all of the positions will be replaced, the newly hired employees will earn a lower salary than the retiring teachers, resulting in a budget savings.
Peterson said the biggest budget increases was the 24 percent rise in health care costs, from this year’s $2.9 million to an estimated $3.6 million next year.
District voters will also elect one Board of Education member to a five-year term after current Vice President Robert Suits decided to not seek re-election. His term expires on June 30.
Peterson said the two candidates that filed the necessary petitions to seek the seat include Frederick Castiglione and Jennifer Andrews-Leise.
The community will also be asked to approve the purchase of three vehicles that will be bought from the Bus Purchase Reserve fund and includes two 66-passenger school buses at an estimated cost of $229,100 and one suburban at an estimated cost of $45,000.