The yeas have it: Kingston voters OK school budget, props, Dietz deal, school board trustees

 

KCSD school officials celebrated a clean sweep on Tuesday night as their $175 million budget proposal for the 2018-19 school year and three separate propositions all met widespread approval from voters, who turned out in fewer numbers than they had one year earlier.

In unofficial results, the $175,032,027 spending plan passed by a margin of 1,523-597, with voters in all seven elementary schools approving. The budget will increase the local property tax levy by 2.62 percent and increase overall spending by 3.21 percent. The spending plan represents an increase of $5,450,486 over the current school year’s budget, but it comes with a tax levy increase nearly a full percentage point lower than the state-mandated cap of 3.56 percent.

With a spring storm hammering the Hudson Valley during the day, fewer voters turned out than they did in 2017. A total 2,120 votes were cast on Tuesday compared to 2,875 last year. Even so, the percentages were greater in favor of the budget this year, with the 2017-18 spending plan passing by a margin of 1,863-1,012.

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Superintendent Paul Padalino on Tuesday night said that this year’s results are a sign that the district had effectively managed to show voters that the annual goal of striking a budgeting balance between the needs of students and the public’s values and ability to pay had been met.

“It’s a good sign that we communicate well with the public,” Padalino said, adding that keeping spending well below of the tax cap was undeniably helpful. “Unless it’s a low tax levy, we really try to not push that envelope and be conscious of what our community is willing to pay. They know we are good stewards.”

The good feelings about the budget proposal also touched the three propositions before voters.

“We’re about 72 percent passing rate [on the budget] and everything else followed suit,” said Padalino.

By a margin of 1,617-459, voters approved the creation of a new capital reserve to hold the proceeds from the forthcoming sale of the Cioni Building. Using the reserve fund in the future will also require voter approval.

Voters also okayed spending up to $16 million on capital projects at M. Clifford Miller Middle School, and both John F. Kennedy and Harry L. Edson elementary schools. The money will come from a combination of capital reserves and state building aid. That proposition passed 1,586-500.

At Edson, the district sees the need for selective site improvements, including concrete walkways and paving, window replacements, and mechanical upgrades.

JFK is also in need of site improvements, school officials believe, including walkway, ashpalt and masonry repairs. Windows and main entrance upgrades are also in the plan, are selective mechanical upgrade, emergency lighting, and the need for a new elevator to meet ADA compliance.

Miller shares the same general need for site improvements, window replacement and emergency lighting, Padalino said, and they also need to replace old electric panel boards. And there are also plans for much needed work in the auditorium, added the superintendent. 

Dietz talks can begin

A proposition authorizing the district to enter into negotiations with the City of Kingston to give up their half ownership of Dietz Stadium passed 1,673-413. Should negotiations go as planned and the city is given full ownership of the stadium, the district would still have priority access for sports and other events as it does under the current arrangement. But as sole owner, the city would be eligible for grant funds for up to $3 million in renovations and improvements.

On Tuesday night, Padalino said he expected the Dietz conversation would likely happen sooner rather than later. 

“My guess is the mayor is probably going to want to talk tomorrow,” Padalino said.

In a public Facebook post on Tuesday night, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble applauded the results in the Dietz referendum. 

“This is wonderful news,” Noble wrote. “Looking forward to working out the details with the superintendent and the board over the coming months and I am excited to improve Dietz stadium for our community to use for generations to come!”

Less surprising were the results of the school board elections, which saw three incumbents running unopposed re-elected handily. Robin Jacobowitz led with 1,614 votes, while James Shaughnessy (1,608) and Danielle Guido (1,583) also won new three-year terms.

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