Saugerties voters will decide on $65.3-million school budget Tuesday

With no separate propositions and three incumbents running unopposed for reelection to the school board, the only uncertainty going into next Tuesday’s school district election is the fate of the $65.3-million budget proposal for the 2019-20 school year. The budget comes in under the state’s tax cap of a 2.67 percent tax increase. The district was not particularly happy with a state aid increase of only roughly $168,000 this year. Because the money would be reimbursable through state building aid, it plans to transfer $100,000 from the general fund to the capital fund for roof repairs at Cahill Elementary School. In a district newsletter, interim superintendent Lawrence Mautone said the district was balancing its dual commitment to serving the needs of its students while respecting the limited ability of district residents to help pay for the school system.

“As always, when crafting the school budget, we constantly are looking at ways to protect, consolidate, and reduce, while staying committed to providing our students with an exceptional education,” said Mautone. “We do this by understanding all revenue options and by making sure every dollar counts.”

Significant changes in the budget include the elimination of a guidance position, two elementary teaching positions, and the trimming of work schedules for some instructional staff to part-time. 

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Under the proposed budget, the district is adding another full-time school psychologist. In addition to maintaining courses, including AP and college-level classes and extracurricular activities like the arts and athletics, the budget proposes three new courses based on student interest: computer science, coding/robotics, and horticulture. All four elementary schools will now offer pre-kindergarten classes. 

“Our goal was to shift resources to better meet student interest and need, while also being fiscally responsible,” said interim business official Donald Gottlieb in the district newsletter. “Reducing positions is never easy, but we are responding to a drop in population, so it was a necessary step to ensure we are able to maintain quality programming for students.”

The proposed spending plan is an increase of $1,321,490 over the 2018-19 budget, in large part due to increases in instructional, general support and transportation costs. The greatest increase, $606,027, was seen in the instructional teaching line. Other increases were in contract transportation (increased by $336,559 to $28,834,318) and employee benefits (increased by $125,383 to $17,940,642). 

Katie Emerson-Hoss, Elena Maskell and Paul VanSchaack are running for reelection to the school board. The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21 at all four district elementary schools.

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