A week ago, voters in the Saugerties Central School District approved a $61.05 million budget proposal for the 2016-17 school year by what school officials said was a greater than 2-to-1 margin. At this week’s school board meeting, those numbers became clear: 1,096 votes were cast in favor of the spending plan, while 498 were cast against.
Some of the mystery following the voting one week earlier was due to a number of affidavit ballots, which had to be ratified by the school board. While those votes did change the numbers a bit, the disparity between the two meant it would have been impossible to change the result.
The same was true in the school board election, where three challengers won three open seats. Official results added to the final tally for each candidate, but the results were the same. Running under the Working Together umbrella, Paul Van Schaack (1,132 votes, up from 1,120 in last week’s unofficial tally), Elena Maskell (1,057, up from 1,046) and Katie Emerson-Hoss (941, up from 931) each earned a three-year term as trustees. Incumbents Flo Hyatt (686, up from 681) and Angie Minew (514, up from 507) were defeated in their bids to remain on the board. A third incumbent, former board president George Heidcamp, chose not to run again.
Next school year’s spending plan includes increases in regular education teaching costs ($17.11 million, a 2.94 percent increase); programs for special education students, which Turner said comprises about 18 percent of the student population ($9.39 million, a 9.7 percent increase); contract transportation ($3.64 million, a 0.23 percent increase); plant operations ($2.04 million, a 3.1 percent increase); supervision of regular school ($1.13 million, an increase of 6.47 percent); and general support ($922,369, an increase of 17.18 percent.)
Among the new expenditures is an instructional salary total of $56,696 for summer school, which the district is planning to run for grades 7-9; grades 10-12 would still attend Ulster County BOCES-run summer school.
The cost of some expense lines will go down when compared to the 2015-16 budget. Employee benefits ($16.09 million, an 0.82 percent decrease), debt service ($2.49 million, a 1.14 percent decrease) and occupational education ($1.53 million, a decrease of 13.17 percent) will all cost less in 2016-17.
On Tuesday night, Superintendent Seth Turner said he was happy with the budget’s overwhelming win at the polls.
“I am pleased the community of Saugerties has once again demonstrated support for the school district,” he said. “A great deal of hard work went into preparation for the budget vote, and thanks to the support of the constituents, we can now focus on implementing the plans for the 2016-17 school year.”
Van Schaack said he was pleased to earn the confidence of the voters, a confidence he hopes to continue to earn as a trustee.
“Having the public’s support is critical when decisions made by any elected official has an impact on those members of the community that are stake holders, and have a vested interest in the decisions we make,” he said. “I believe in a process that we must ‘hear’ as well as ‘listen’ to the concerns that are presented to use by the public. I believe in having open discussions, and keeping all members on our community informed of the decisions that are made by the school board in a way that can be understood. We live in an information age that is real-time, and in some cases inaccurate. If you win the trust of your community, you will have a better working relationship moving forward. We need to take the politics out of education, I know that is a tall order, but we need to try.”
Turner addressed also addressed the changes coming to the school board. “I would like to thank the three outgoing members of the board of education for their commitment and for volunteering with the district, and I welcome and congratulate the new trustees,” he said.