Austerity or something like it

On June 21, voters in the Saugerties School District will weigh in on a second budget proposal, this one totaling $53,327,601.

The proposal comes in lower than amount that the board could have adopted as an austerity budget when voters rejected the $55.1 million proposal almost three weeks ago. However, if voters again reject the budget, by law, the board must adopt a lower spending plan.

“That could be a one dollar lower value,” said Turner. “But, if there is something which is at risk, I think it’s fair to let the public know early so that if it were the desire of board of ed members to be reducing the budget beyond what would be contingency value, that we get on record so people know full well and we can advertise what would be at risk.”


No board member has discussed what may be cut if voters reject the proposal. While some wonder why the board would put a budget before voters that it could simply adopt as austerity, Turner says there is a value to not operating under a contingency budget. Even at the same amount, an approved budget is not considered a contingency budget.

There is a social benefit to the community and the district while not functioning under austerity. Some restrictions associated with austerity would also be lifted, including the need to charge community groups for use of district property.

Perhaps most importantly, Turner says that a second vote allows parents a second chance to control the terms of their children’s education. When the public is not afforded that opportunity, only the nine people serving on the school board make decisions that affect students.

“It’s a matter of who is making the decisions regarding your child,” said Turner.

Turner again urged the board to be up front with constituents concerning what may land on the cutting table if the budget does not pass. The board sat silently, though.

“I can’t see the future,” said Bob Davies after the meeting.  Davies cast the sole vote against the budget at a meeting last week, saying that he thought the proposal was too low, and does not leave room for cutting without affecting student programs.

Asked what she thought the board might do if forced to adopt an austerity budget, trustee Theresa Bach-Tucker said, “I would hope programs wouldn’t be lost.”

The proposed budget comes in around $169,000 lower than the previous proposal. It carries a tax levy increase of 6.38 percent over the current budget, and tax rates of $16.77 per thousand dollars of assessed property value in Saugerties, $22.40 per thousand in the town of Ulster, and $18.34 in Woodstock.

In Saugerties, this would mean a tax bill of $3,354 for the owner of a property valued at $200,000.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 21, at each of the district’s four elementary schools.