COLONIE – Residents in the South Colonie School District overwhelmingly approved a $102.2 million budget for the 2018-19 year by a vote of 1,019 to 297.
The budget will increase spending by 2.75 percent and taxes by 2.95 percent. The increase is below the state mandated tax cap of 3.2 percent.
The district estimates a Colonie property owner with a home worth $200,000 will see a tax increase of $8.70 per month. The owner of a home worth $175,000 will see a $7.61 increase per month and the owner of a home worth $225,000 will see a $9.78 increase.
Guilderland residents living in the South Colonie School District will see their tax rate go from $23.39 per $1,000 of assessed value to $24.08. Those living in Niskayuna will see their tax rate go from $17.68 to $18.20 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Those numbers may change slightly as municipalities finalize their assessment roles.
Voters also approved a proposition to borrow $1 million to purchase 10 new school buses. According to the district, after state aid, the cost to district taxpayers will be about $123,000, or less than .05 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
Two seats on the Board of Education were open and newcomers Colleen Gizzi and Stephanie Cogan were each elected to five-year terms with 1,008 and 1,003 votes, respectively. There were no other candidates.
According to the newly approved budget, the district will spend about $2.8 million more than last year. The largest increases are $1.2 million more for employee benefits to $27.7 million, $969,000 for special education to $12.9 million and $515,000 for regular instruction to $34.3 million. The largest decreases are $201,000 for operations and maintenance to $5.3 million and $108,000 less for pupil services to $2.5 million.
Some 79.3 percent of the budget – $81 million, up from $78.5 million — is earmarked for instructional programs. About 9.6 percent of the budget — $9.8 million, up from $9.4 million — is for administrative costs. And the remaining 11.2 percent of the budget — $11.4 million, down from $11.5 million — is earmarked for building and grounds.
Among other things, the budget will, according to the district:
- Add five sections to the Summer Literacy Program
- Add 2.5 special education teachers
- Add one school psychologist
- Add 1.8 math teachers
- Add 1.6 social studies teachers
- Add one English as a New Language teacher
- Continue the installation of security cameras
The two special ed teachers, said Superintendent Jonathan Buhner, are part of a co-teaching model that has special needs students in core instruction and regular core classes with an additional teacher on hand to help out if the need arises.
The additional school psychologist is, in large part, due to recent school shootings. There is money in the budget allocated to beef up security at schools including security cameras, but it is widely believed the mental health of school shooters is a factor and could have been mitigated if resources were available or if someone was paying attention.
“We are hardening the buildings, so to speak, and we have good drills and we work with Colonie Police Department and the School Resource Officers and we did tighten up a few things on that end of security,” Buhner said previously. “But the other part of that is taking care of our kids and their families.”