Saugerties school budget and trustee vote primer

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Voters in the Saugerties school district will next Tuesday will decide the fate of a $63.978-million budget proposal for the 2018-19 school year. The spending plan comes with a 2.53 percent tax- levy increase, the maximum possible without having to resort to approval from a supermajority of 60 percent or greater at the polls. 

“I feel like I say the same things every year,” said the SCSD business manager Lissa Jilek. “It’s a fiscally sound budget. We tried to minimize any fluctuations, which most of the fluctuations we see are with benefit costs. We’re taking advantage of any retirements throughout the district and reconsidering whether we’re going to replace those positions, so we’re looking at attrition.”

Spending in the proposed budget rose at roughly the same pace as the tax levy, a 2.55 percent increase, or $1,593,900 over the 2017-18 budget. In April, Jilek said the budget plan was difficult to craft for a variety of reasons, including one of the lowest state aid increases in Ulster County.

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Jilek said the district was determined to offer its students consistency in the quality of their academic offerings as the district moves through the rapidly changing 21st century. “We continue to review our programs and invest in technology,” said Jilek. “We’re definitely going to continue to invest in technology, which therefore invests in our students. We will continue with summer school, the kindergarten jumpstart program that started last year. Everything is going to be continued.”

According to Jilek, the local property tax rate is $20.74 per $1000 of assessed value. 

“I think it provides the needed services for students to get a quality education while it keeps us under the tax cap,” said board president Bob Thomann. “I think it’s something that everyone can live with.”

Nearing the end of their current three-year terms are Thomann, James Mooney and Mike Maclary, none of whom will face challengers on the ballot. 

Maclary said he’s seeking reelection because he feels the school board’s current members are a solid representation of the community with a common purpose, even when they don’t always agree about the best path to follow. “We have a good board that works together,” Maclary said. “We don’t always agree, but it’s a broad group that brings a lot to the table. We’re all interested in continuing what we were working towards.” 

Polls will be open in all four of the district’s elementary schools next Tuesday, May 15 between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

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