The committee formed to assess the feasibility of North Colonie School District’s annexation of Maplewood-Colonie Common School has agreed to bring the matter before the public in during the May school budget vote.
The 26-member committee, which first convened in November, is made up of a 13-member cross section of representatives from each of the school districts. The group, which at the conclusion of the Wednesday, Jan.17, meeting made the decision to poll the public about the annexation, met for a sixth and final time Thursday, Jan. 25.
Committee members said they decided to bring the matter before the public when early estimates put both parties in a position to reap significant financial benefits if the annexation were to take place.
They looked at the financial impact, tax rate impact, curriculum and academics and whether Maplewood would remain open and the impact on staff, said Jerry Steele, Maplewood principal, superintendent and business manager. `Based on that information and the original question of the first meeting, ‘Is this going to improve possibilities of students?’ They said, ‘Yes, this is worth taking to voters.’`
For the past three years, Maplewood has passed double-digit tax-rate increases. Last year’s tax rate increased by 22 percent; nearly triple the 7.78 percent rate increase in North Colonie.
If the annexation goes through, residents paying taxes in the Maplewood district could see them reduced significantly, said Steele. Estimates show both residents and commercial property owners could see their taxes more than cut in half. Lower taxes mean the small hamlet, with a rich Russian heritage, could remain competitive for businesses, Steele said.
The hamlet would also get to keep the small-town feel of its kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school. If annexed, the school would be called Maplewood Elementary School and would become the seventh North Colonie elementary school.
For North Colonie, the annexation could bring in $30 million in state annexation incentive aid to be paid over the course of 14 years, said Thomas Rybaltowski, district assistant superintendent for business.
`For us, it seems to be very attractive and a great thing for North Colonie residents. It will help mitigate future tax increases. A win-win is a good way to put it,` Rybaltowski said.
The district would also see an increase of state reimbursement on capital improvement projects. Currently, the district gets back 48 percent of its investment in projects. If the annexation goes through, that number could increase to 68 percent, Rybaltowski said.
For 10 years, Maplewood has contemplated joining with North Colonie and met with its district officials to discuss options. Last summer, officials met once again and decided that a annexation should be thoroughly investigated and put before voters of both districts.
Maplewood has attempted mergers before in the face of increasing costs, including a 1980 feasibility study looking into a merger with Watervliet and Green Island schools. Voters turned that proposal down.“