COLONIE — Voters in the North Colonie School District overwhelmingly approved the 2020-21, $118 million spending plan by a count of 2,946 to 999.
The budget, which will increase spending by 1.4 percent and the tax levy by .47 percent, will lower the tax rate by about .9 percent. The state mandated tax cap for North Colonie was .47 percent.
While the final tax rate will be set with the final assessment figures are provided by the town in August, preliminarily, the budget means the owner of a home with a $300,000 market value will pay $41 less in school taxes next year.
“I know the voting process for this year’s school budget vote and board election certainly was different due to the pandemic,” Superintendent Joe Corr said. “I want to thank our community and taxpayers for continuing to support the North Colonie Central School District by approving the 2020-21 budget. This budget will allow us to continue to provide all of our students with an excellent education in a safe learning environment.”
Despite the growth of commercial and residential development in North Colonie, the district was not immune to the issues with state aid and is projecting $2.4 million less in foundation aid. The state is projecting a deficit up to $13 billion and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said school districts and municipalities could face cuts of up to 20 percent should the federal government not come through with additional money. In an unprecedented move, Cuomo said he would re-open the budget on a quarterly basis to reassess the state’s fiscal condition including the disbursement of state aid.
At the onset of the budget preparation, the district was poised to hire 10 new teachers in response to an enrollment increase. Instead, as the pandemic hit, to help close a $3.4 million deficit the district eliminated 12.7 fulltime equivalent positions in the district through attrition to save $1.4 million. It did not, though, cut any active staff members and maintains educational programs at their current level.
It is also cutting $920,000 in principle payments to debt service, deferring $700,000 in equipment purchases and cutting $250,000 in non-instructional compensation like overtime and substitutes. Five requested positions, four cleaners and a person to work on the grounds, were initially approved but removed from the budget for a savings of $240,000.
It is adding $500,000 in COVID-19 related expenses and four new elementary school teachers.
This year’s school budget and Board of Education elections were held by absentee ballot exclusively. It was initially slated for June 9 but pushed back a week, to June 16, because many districts had difficulties mailing the absentees to voters.
In North Colonie there were two Board of Education seats up for grabs and Linda Harrison was re-elected with 3,262 votes. Newcomer David Gaynor ran unopposed for the other seat and he received 2,890 votes.