COLONIE — The South Colonie School District’s proposed 2021-2022, $108 million spending plan would increase spending by less than 1 percent and taxes by about 1 percent.
If approved by voters on Tuesday, May 18, the budget would cost the owner of a $175,000 home about $2.59 per month more. For Colonie homeowners, the average tax increase is about $28.28, for Niskayuna and Guilderland homeowners in the district it represents an average increase of $17.25.
Also on the ballot are candidates looking to fill two vacant board seats and a proposition to purchase 57 acres of land to construct new district offices and a bus garage (see side bar.)
Last year the district, facing a $3.2 million deficit, was forced to eliminate 40 positions to keep taxes under the state imposed cap.
This year — thanks in part to an 11.3 percent increase, or $2.3 million, in state aid and an infusion of $9.2 million through the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act — the proposed budget includes money to hire 16.2 full time equivalent employees including four elementary school teachers, one alternate education and one special education teacher, a guidance counselor and four teaching assistants.
The federal stimulus money is earmarked for “evidence-based interventions” to help students catch up if they have fallen behind in studies because of COVID-19. In South Colonie it is slated to be spent on expanding summer school literacy and math academy, extend after school programming, instructional materials, replace Chromebooks and staff training and development.
“It was a little bit easier than last year but the ebb and flow going from a 20 percent reduction in the fall and this year and going from the first draft to final budget, with the uncertainties of state aid, took a lot of time and work,” said Superintendent David Perry. “We think we have a solid budget and it will certainly make a more sustainable budget not just for for 2021 and 2022 but the next few years.
Nearly a third of the budget, $34.8 million is allocated for teacher salaries, an increase of about $1.1 million than what the district estimates to spend this year. Total instruction, which includes salaries and programming will increase to $87.2 million from $84.7 million. Employee benefits, which includes health care and pension contributions, would increase to $29.2 million from the estimated $26.2 million that will be spent this year. The cost of administration will decrease to $10 million from about $10.5 million.
The district is estimating it will spend nearly $6 million less this year than what was budgeted, $107 million was approved by the voters last year and the district is anticipating it will spend about $101.3 million. That came from a hiring and spending freeze implemented in November, 2020, due to the potential state-wide budget cuts — Gov. Andrew Cuomo had threatened to cut school aid by 20 percent — and a number of athletic seasons and extracurricular activities not taking place.
Board of Education
There are two seats open on the board, each carrying a five-year term.
Three candidates are running to fill the vacancy created with the retirement of longtime board member and former President Ed Sim. All three are looking for their first term on the board. They are, in the order they will appear on the ballot:
- Graham Knowles: A lecturer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he was president of the Roessleville PTA and vice president of the South Colonie PTA Council. He was a board member of the high school soccer club, and a benefactor at the South Colonie Friends of Music. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from Saint John Fisher College and a masters degree in education from the College of Saint Rose. He has lived in the district for 21 years and has two children — a 2019 grad of Colonie high and a current student.
- Robert “Bob” Downey: Is a professor of strategic management at UAlbany. He is an acrive member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where he serve s as counselor, bishopric, ward mission leader, high priest group leader and other positions. He also was a tee-ball coach for the West Albany Athletic Association. He has a bachelors from UAlbany and a master’s degree in business administration from RPI. He has lived in the district since 1960 and his three children graduated from Colonie High.
(CAPTION, WIFE MARY)
- Bob Mesick: Is a business banking relationship manager at Pioneer Bank. He has volunteers as a girls basketball coach for the capital District Girls Basketball League and was a volunteer coach for the Colonie Girls Youth Softball Recreational League. The graduate of the College of St. Rose has resided in the district for 18 years. Both of his children currently attend Colonie High.
There is one candidate seeking a five-year term to succeed Neil Johanning, who has been on the board since 2005, when his term expires on June 30.
- Chris Larrabee: Is a business services representative for the state Department of Labor. After graduating from Colonie High in 1997, he got an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Hudson Valley Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business from SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica-Rome. He is the Colonie Little League player agent, a recreation team and travel team head coach. He also coaches a Capital District Youth Basketball League and in 2020 was appointed to a volunteer role in the Village of Colonie Zoning Board. He has lived in the district for 18 years and his son is a student at Lisha Kill Middle School.