Residents of Saratoga Springs received an in-depth look at the 2008-09 school budget on the evening of Tuesday, May 13. The budget hearing, held at the Saratoga Springs High School, also provided the public an opportunity to address the Board of Education. The proposed budget weighs in at $107,353,350, a 2.92 percent increase from the 2007-08 budget.
Assistant Superintendent of Business Kurt Jaeger walked attendees through the proposal, which mostly supports the current operation of the school district. New initiatives like two new elementary teachers, two flex` teaching positions and foreign language software for elementary schools ` account for less than 1 percent of the budget.
`We looked very carefully at a lot of things, and were unable to do a lot of those,` said Jaeger.
He cited the rising price of gas, electricity and food as some of the factors limiting the addition of new programs.
Some residents expressed displeasure that the budget was increasing despite services remaining the same.
`I’m concerned about this budget,` said resident David Bronner. `The budget keeps going up and up with only a small increase in students. Something is whack.`
Though time constraints precluded the board from addressing every concern raised, Jaeger did outline areas where the district has been working to reduce costs.
The cost to the average household would increase 2 to 6 percent based on location. That’s a $3,392 average school tax bill for a $315,000 home. The final numbers aren’t in yet because Wilton, Greenfield and Malta are undergoing reassessments.
Former Board of Education President Russ Danforth said he sees such increases as the result of less state aid.
`The burden is on the local taxpayer,` said Danforth. `The state is not paying their portion.`
Jaeger noted that in the 1991-92 school budget, state aid accounted for 47 percent of revenues. In the proposed 2008-09 budget, that share is 28.77 percent.
Voters will also be presented with two propositions as they step into the polling booths on Tuesday, May 20. The first is a $3.25 million for site improvements to Dorothy Nolan Elementary and the Saratoga Springs High School.
The upgrades to Dorothy Nolan would include parking improvements, a drop-off and pick-up loop upgrade and four air-conditioning units for the intermediate library.
The high school would receive two roof section replacements, new piping to air handler units and upgrades to the gym.
Jaeger said that the money for the upgrades would be provided by a mix of existing funds from the district’s sale of the former administrative building at 5 Wells St. and undesignated fund balance. As a result, the upgrades would come at no extra cost to the taxpayers.
The third proposition on the ballot will be the replacement of nine high-mileage buses at a cost of $843,877, nearly half of which will be provided by state aid.
`We typically replace 10 percent of our fleet every year,` said Jaeger.
Also on the ballot are three Board of Education seats. The positions are for three years, and the only candidates are incumbents current board president Francis Palumbo, Mia Pfitzer and Jeff Piro.
Bronner said he was disappointed at the lack of choices.
`It’s really unfortunate that there’s no opposition here,` he said.
Danforth said he felt that what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixing.
`These people who are running again are very thoughtful and considerate,` he said.
The vote will take place on May 20, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the district’s six elementary schools. Voters can register at the Saratoga County Board of Elections through May 19.“