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South Colonie Central School District News

Residents Approve 2016-17 District Budget, School Bus Propositon and Elect Board Members

South Colonie Central School District residents went to the polls today (May 17) and approved a $98.66 million budget for the 2016- 2017 school year, the lease of five new school buses and elected two members to the Board of Education.

The budget passed by a vote of 1,233-304. A special proposition authorizing the district to spend up to $350,000 to lease five new school buses passed by a vote of 1,180-349. In the school board races, incumbents Neil Johanning (1,205 votes) and Edward Sim (1,199 votes) ran unopposed and were elected to new five-year terms beginning July 1.

The new budget total $98,659,699, and calls for a 2.49 percent spending increase over the current school year, and an increase in the district tax levy of 1.17 percent — below the state tax levy cap for South Colonie of 1.18 percent.

Although assessment and equalization rates will not be known until August, the district estimates the average Colonie property owner with a home market value of $200,000 will pay $3.59 per month more next school year to finance education.

This spring marked the end of New York State’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). The state instituted the GEA in 2009-10 to help address its own budget shortfalls brought on by the fiscal crisis at the time. The GEA diverted billions of dollars from public schools over the past seven years.

Since that time, the South Colonie Board of Education, administration, and entire school committee worked tirelessly to advocate for an end to the GEA, which cost the district $17.7 million overall, money that was promised to the schools. This included participation in four large public advocacy events, three of which were hosted by the district itself, and numerous letters to Gov. Cuomo and local legislators asking that these funds be returned to our public schools.

While that money will never be recovered, state lawmakers voted to end the GEA for the 2016-17 school year. The remaining GEA cuts of $1,700,182 will be fully restored to the district.

The aid restoration enabled the district to address critical academic needs and priorities in the newly-approved 2016-17 budget. Next year’s budget calls for adding: 2.5 Special Education teachers, 3 academic support Monitors, 3 Teaching Assistants, 1 grade 5-6 STEM teacher, a 0.70 Science teacher, 2 grades K-8 AIS teachers, 1 K-4 elementary school teacher, 1 social worker, 1 clerical support position, 1 part-time custodial worker, and Instructional Technology dedicated for student use.

In addition to meeting these instructional needs, the district took the opportunity to address non-instructional needs in the budget including expanding athletic training support for students, replacing cleaning equipment, purchasing one new maintenance truck, leasing five new school buses (separate proposition), replacing fuel pumps and adding a GPS system for the Transportation Department, adding grade 7 Modified Football and Boys Modified Volleyball, replacing an athletic scoreboard, and updating the district’s Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) equipment.