Highland School District voters approve budget, bus proposition and $8 million capital project

Michael Bakatsias, Camille Adoma and Edward Meisel

Voters in the Highland Central School District went to the polls today and approved a budget of $45,280,769 for the 2018-19 school year. The budget passed with 595 votes in favor and 301 opposed, including 39 absentee ballots cast. The budget reflects a $2,413,839 increase over the 2017-18 budget; a 5.63 percent increase year-to-year with an associated tax levy increase of 4.45 percent. Because these numbers fell within the tax cap, a simple 50 percent-plus-one majority vote was all that was needed to pass the budget.

Voters also approved an $8 million capital improvement project, with 583 voting for the measure and 308 against. According to the district, the timing of retiring debt and availability of state aid along with money saved in the district’s capital reserve fund make the project tax-neutral. Twenty-eight and a half percent of the funds for the project will come from replacement of existing debt with 66.2 percent from anticipated state aid. The remaining 5.3 percent of the $8 million will come from the district’s capital reserve fund. The proposal is designed to improve health and safety conditions in the schools, replace some infrastructure at the end of its life, improve energy efficiency and enhance some student programs.

The $588,000 proposition for school bus replacement also passed. The bus proposition received 589 “yes” votes and 305 “no” votes. The funds authorized by passage of the proposition will pay for three 65-passenger buses, two 30-person passenger vans, one wheelchair-accessible van and one 7-passenger Suburban. State transportation aid will pay for 59.1 percent of the bill for the vehicles with an additional taxpayer impact, according to the district, of no more than $6.03 per $100,000 of assessed value.

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Incumbent trustees Michael Bakatsias and Edward Meisel were reelected to their seats on the Highland Central School District Board of Education with 603 and 628 votes, respectively. Camille Adoma joined the board with 582 votes, replacing seated trustee Debbie Pagano, who chose not to run to retain her seat. No other candidates ran on the ballot. The terms are for three years, beginning July 1.

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