No comments at Onteora budget public hearing

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

A handful of audience participants consisting mostly of students fulfilling a civics requirement were all that were in attendance as the Onteora Central School District Board of Education held its official Public Hearing on the proposed 2014/15-school budget on May 6.

It may be because this will be the third year the district has managed to produce a tax levy that does not increase at all, and yet still projects no cuts to staff or programs. The public will vote on the budget, a proposition to spend capital funds and for board trustees 2 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday May 20 at the district’s four elementary school buildings.

Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill and Assistant Superintendent for Business Victoria McLaren presented a power-point view of the budget with a pie chart showing that 80 percent of funds going toward programs, 11.38 percent in capital funding and 8.52 percent in administrative costs. “Which is what we like to see because that is direct support to the students,” said McLaren.


The budget includes a $40.2 million tax levy, which makes up most of the income in the $51.8 million spending plan. This includes a new five-year transportation contract with a nearly $30,000 reduction in expense and $1 million set aside for building repairs. The fund balance will yield $3.4 million to offset the tax levy. “Keep in mind that we are still giving money back from the Tax-certiorari that the board had pledged to give back to the tax-payers over time,” said McLaren.

The other proposition will ask voters to authorize $5 million of funds in the capital reserve and $2 million of unappropriated fund balance in order to fund a $7 million capital project. “There will be no tax increase associated with the project and there will be revenue coming in over long term — 15 years and we will not have to pay any interest on borrowing funds,” said McLaren. The Middle/High School will use approximately 88 percent of these funds for a new boiler, replacing asphalt paving areas, asbestos abatement in the corridor, renovations of bathrooms, upgrade of interior doors and reconstructing plumbing. The bus garage will get a new roof and Phoenicia Primary School will get a new biomass boiler.

And third on the ballot are three vacancies on the school board, with only two official candidates having petitioned for a seat. Current board president Ann McGillicuddy will seek reelection and newcomer Gideon Moor, a parent in the district, will clearly win another seat.

With no other ballot names, the third seat will rely on a public write-in vote, and as long as the person exists and lives in the district, the one with the most write-in votes will be awarded the seat. Should there be no write-ins, the board would then choose a member to serve until the next election. “We have Dan Spencer who served on the board for six years and we are going to miss him, he is not running for board again and has put in a lot of time and work,” McGill said. “We also have Trustee (Michael) McKeon who has served on the board for a little over five years and he will not be running for board again and we appreciate his hard work for the district.”

A copy of the school budget will be on file at the District’s schoolhouses, Community Libraries and on the District website at


Realtor wants to sell West Hurly for district

The board has agreed to look into an RFP (Request For Proposal) from local real estate businesses that may be interested in taking on the sale of West Hurley elementary school. McLaren said, “I brought this forward because we were approached by a realtor to have the board commit to them specifically…and I know the Kingston school district recently went through divesting themselves of several of their buildings.” McLaren has been in contact with Kingston district officials who have been sharing information with her. “I think the best approach is an RFP” said Spencer, “a building such as that would probably take a certain amount of time for the building to sell, so you would want a relationship and you would want the opportunity to see how successful they are in that type of real estate.”


Later start time for secondary students?

School start time for secondary students is under discussion again, with more interest spreading countywide. McGillicuddy said, “I think it’s been discussed the last three-or-four years about the idea of starting the secondary students in a later time in the day based on studies that show it’s beneficial to students.” Trustee Tony Fletcher said there is now overwhelming evidence that proves teenagers need later start times based upon natural sleep differences during a time of change. He said that Highland, Rondout and Onteora have the earliest start time of 7:45 a.m., “and we have the longest school day, we have six-hours 55 minutes from first-to-last period and New Paltz has six hours twenty.” In the past trustees attempted to switch the bus pick-up times where the younger students would have the earlier pick-up time and the older students would get the later time. This attempt failed because of BOCES and other off campus scheduling. Sports also creates a problem in the autumn when it tends to get dark earlier. McGill said with a countywide interest there might be room for change. Board members have requested input from staff, parents and students.