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Voters ‘bite the bullet’ on Schenectady school budget

$164.3 million school budget gets reluctant nod

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
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Mary B. Mc Claine gets a ballot from Election Clerk Janet Linkinhoker at Schenectady High School during the budget and election vote on Tuesday afternoon.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Mary B. Mc Claine gets a ballot from Election Clerk Janet Linkinhoker at Schenectady High School during the budget and election vote on Tuesday afternoon.

Around the region

• Scotia-Glenville overrides cap. Click HERE

• Voters OK budgets in all Saratoga County districts. Click HERE.

• All Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie school budgets approved except Northville. Click HERE.

— The mood of the day was ambivalence.

The Schenectady school budget was approved Tuesday — but with reluctance, not enthusiasm.

“I don’t like that if we have to trim, the kids are hurt. So I bite the bullet,” said resident Linda DiCaprio, who voted yes.

Hardly a strong endorsement for the $164.3 million budget, which raised taxes $60 for the typical house assessed at $100,000 and also cut about $4.8 million.

Still, the budget passed by a large margin, with 1,051 votes in favor to 489 votes opposed. That’s 68 percent in favor, by unofficial results.

But the things lost with the new budget were staggering, said high school junior Tamera Budhoo as she accompanied her father to the polls.

“A lot of teachers I know are getting pink slips, and it’s increasing our class sizes,” she said.

In addition, less-popular high school classes are being cut and fewer options will be offered to advanced students who show up for classes before the official start of the day.

At the elementary school level, the foreign language program will be eliminated. At the middle school, students will have to stop studying Mandarin and Arabic — those languages will no longer be offered until high school. Science labs will be reduced and the district cut back on social workers and academic counseling.

“There’s so many things we have to cut and it’s sad,” Budhoo said. “Our class sizes are already so high, a teacher doesn’t have time for one-on-one if a kid needs help.”

But she advised her father to vote for the budget. It was the best the school board could do, she said.

He wasn’t happy.

“We’ve got the highest taxes and we are losing benefits,” said Dandeago Budhoo. “Education is one of the keys of human life. We need to cut other stuff than education. We shouldn’t cut education at all.”

In the end, he decided to listen to his daughter and vote yes. But like many others, “yes” didn’t mean he was happy with the cuts or the tax increase.

Some voted no outright, saying enough was enough.

“You know what? Taxes have just gotten out of control,” said former Mayor Al Jurczynski. “They have to just bring things in line. I’m not going to tell them how to do it, but when you consider what the superintendent’s making, he’s got to deliver for the taxpayers. Simply put, this city cannot afford the taxes.”

But a few voters said they were willing to pay more.

“It is our future we’re investing in here,” said resident Paul Fredericks.

Resident Dave Thompson added that he felt he had a moral obligation to pay for the next generation’s education, even though it cost more.

“We had all the benefits: the education, the sports,” he said. “Let them have what we were able to have.”

Superintendent Laurence Spring said after the vote that he sympathized with critics of the budget.

“It certainly was a harrowing budget process,” he said.

But he interpreted the outcome as a vote of support for the school district.

“A result like this is heartening,” he said.

The ballot also included two candidates running for three seats on the school board. But several people — at least eight — launched write-in campaigns in the week before the vote.

Because of the expected high number of write-ins, a team counted the ballots at the county Board of Elections. At press time, no results were available for any of the board candidates, and budget results were delayed for more than 30 minutes because of the hand count.

 
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comments

May 21, 2014
7:20 a.m.
fjcjr says...

"Taxes have just gotten out of control". It's ironic that Al Jurczinski would make a comment like that. It never appeared that he took that view when he was proposing budgets! Nevertheless, he's correct - we're taxed into oblivion here, and people are simply tapped out. What is the catalyst that will change it?

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