Crunch time for Niskayuna schools

Thursday, May 23, 2013
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Niskayuna taxpayers made it abundantly clear Tuesday that they don’t like high taxes — regardless of the excuse for them and regardless of what it might mean to their prized school system — when they resoundingly shot down a budget that would have raised the school district’s tax levy by 5.76 percent.

That would have been well above the cost of living, of course. It would have also been well above the district’s more-generous-than-average tax cap which, at 4.66 percent, was more than double the basic 2 percent cap the state imposed a couple years ago.

Taxpayers don’t care whether it’s the rising cost of pensions or pencils, or falling state aid to blame when their checkbooks are being drained, and Niskayuna needed at least 60 percent of voters to sign off on this year’s budget plan. The margin wasn’t even close, with only 44 percent voting in favor. And with heavier-than-normal turnout, it’s going to be hard for anyone to argue that the vote didn’t reflect the community’s stance on taxes vs. education.

Early in this year’s budget deliberations, the school board considered but ultimately rejected closing Van Antwerp Middle School. At that point, the budget would have produced a 12 percent tax hike. Slightly more state aid than expected and several rounds of nickel-and-diming by the board brought the expected tax hike down, but still not enough for most taxpayers. District officials who, at the time, promised to reconsider the Van Antwerp closing if the budget failed, now seem to have little choice.

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May 23, 2013
7:22 a.m.
justapto says...

Teachers working 180 days a year, generous benefits, being able to get their kids on the bus in the morning and meeting them when they get back home, having every day home with their kids because they have the exact same schedule, having summer camps, skiing trips and all this available because the occupation 'they voluntarily' chose.
Perhaps a 'cap' on salary raises is in order. Teachers want to compare their occupation with other professional doesn't make it. I work 8 to 5 every week day with 2 weeks off for vacation. I haven't had a raise in years yet my taxes continually go up because the schools hire royalty to baby sit the kids. Then the family is blamed because of low test scores.

May 23, 2013
11:34 a.m.
Niskyboy says...

The Niskayuna school budget is a bucket with many holes in it. The administration keeps saying we continually need to add more water to the bucket to maintain the desired level but the voters have just said, "First fix the leaks." (It's worth noting almost a supermajority of voters said that.)

Some signs the administration is getting serious about fixing the leaks might include:
-- letting some highly paid administrators go
-- asking efficiency experts to come in and review operations
-- outsourcing janitorial and other functions wherever it makes sense
-- refusing to bus students who live within 1 mile of the school (this might help with the obesity epidemic, too)
-- and any other idea that naturally would arise if the administration truly valued the concerns of the people who pay its bills.

Nobody is against funding a good education, we just want the administration to fix the leaks first.

May 23, 2013
11:40 a.m.
Niskyboy says...

By the way, "falling state aid" -- where do you think state money comes from? Out of thin air? It's not free money, it comes from you and me, too, just as does the local school budget.

May 23, 2013
3:36 p.m.
gina99 says...

There is no need to close any schools. As Niskyboy correctly stated remove some of the bloated overpaid administration and slash busing. Let's see more kids walking to school. Plenty of frills totally unrelated to their educational mission. We sent a responding message. Too bad it's already being confused.

May 23, 2013
9:38 p.m.
birmy says...

How can kids walk to some of the schools? There are no sidewalks. The cost of a sidewalk varies hugely. The one from Kinderhook to Valatie, about half a mile costs $1 million. Hard to figure why it costs so much. I suppose a concrete narrow sidewalk would run
$100 to $300 a lineal foot. That includes engineering. Where the costs run higher is for eminent domain, historical digs and moving utilities. You and I could put one in for next to nothing. But not so with the Town of Niskayuna and for any town that matter. I have not heard of anyone blaming the parents of Niskayuna students for their poor performance. Niskayuna students outperform most others. Niskayuna is ranked #1 school district by Capital District Business Review. If we were on a farm I believe we would give the most feed to the highest performing cows. Too bad the State of NY has not figured that one out yet. The budget was voted down I am guessing by primarily older residents who do not have kids in the district. They have every right to vote how they see fit. People who do not want Van Antwerp closed are more likely to have kids or grandkids there. Etc. Etc. Etc.

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