Voters around region going to polls today to vote on school budgets, board races
NISKAYUNA Voters around the region are going to the polls today to vote on local school budgets and for members of local school boards, including those in Niskayuna.
At Niskayuna High School, the location of Niskayuna’s voting, traffic was steady over the lunch hour. Once they completed voting, voters gave differing reasons on why they voted the way they did on the district’s budget.
“I just think it’s important to have the programs they have preserved,” voter Dave Hesler said after he finished voting. Hesler voted in favor of the budget.
George Curtis, however, voted against the budget. Curtis said he believes more cuts can be done elsewhere that don’t impact school activities. Among those areas he believes could see more cuts is in administration.
“I think that there is plenty of slack that they could still attack and make it a lot more reasonable for the town,” Curtis said.
Polls will be open in Niskayuna until 9 p.m.
Niskayuna’s spending plan is unique in that it needs 60 percent approval to pass. That is because the proposed tax levy increase is 5.76 percent, over the district’s 4.66 percent cap.
Niskayuna is proposing to voters a $76.3 million spending plan, a dollar figure district officials have noted is less than even the 2010-11 spending plan from three years earlier.
The 2013-14 spending plan would result in an estimated tax bill increase of $276 for a Niskayuna home assessed at $250,000.
District officials have cited loss of state aid, increasing pension costs and reduced availability of fiscal reserves as contributing to the budget figures.
If voters approve the plan today, it will be put into effect. If they reject it, officials said they would likely cut it down to the tax cap limit, meaning that $559,000 would have to be eliminated and the budget put to voters again. Rejection then would mean that nearly $3 million would have to be cut under a contingency plan.
As the budget stands, all eight schools remain open, kindergarten remains full-day and class sizes on average will remain the same as the current year and within district guidelines.
Other voters today were in favor of the plan.
Cynthia Tepper said she believed approval of the budget was key to home values in the district. She sees people coming to the area for the region’s new nanotechnology jobs and those people won’t choose Niskayuna if the schools don’t maintain the level that people expect from Niskayuna.
“Without good schools, people will not buy houses here,” Tepper said.
Quality education was also on the mind of voter Robert Bendl. Bendl also voted to approve the plan.
“We need to keep the quality of education up in Niskayuna and this budget, by and large, does that,” Bendl said.
Niskayuna voters are also deciding between six school board candidates running for three seats.
Seeking re-election to the Niskayuna school board are Debbie Gordon, David Hudson and Jeanne Sosnow. Gordon is looking for her third term, Hudson his fifth and Sosnow her fourth.
Challenging them for their seats are Patricia Lanotte, Kevin Laurilliard and Matt Petrangelo. Lanotte is a 17-year resident of the district, Laurilliard a 16-year resident and Petrangelo a two-year resident.