Saugerties school district voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $65.3-million budget, with about 64 percent the votes in the affirmative. The vote was 670 in support of the spending plan and 345 opposed. The budget meets the state’s cap of a 2.67 percent tax levy increase.
Also in unofficial results, three incumbents on the school board of Education ran unopposed in their bids for three-year terms. Paul VanSchaack picked up 772 votes, while Katie Emerson-Hoss got 760 and Elena Maskell received 758.
“On behalf of the district I would like to thank the Saugerties community and the voters for their continued support of the district,” said interim superintendent Lawrence Mautone. “I would also like to express my gratitude to all the individuals that worked at the polling sites and to all those in the district that assisted in the process.”
Primary changes in the budget include elimination of a guidance position, two elementary teaching positions, and the trimming of work schedules to part-time for some instructional staff.
While some positions were eliminated, the budget allowed the district to add another full-time school psychologist. And in addition to maintaining courses, including AP and college-level classes and extracurricular activities like the arts and athletics, the budget adds 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 a district newsletter last week. “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, though there were other jumps as well. Contract transportation increased by $336,559 to $28,834,318; and while employee benefits increased by $125,383 to $17,940,642, the rise was less than initially anticipated by school officials.
The budget vote breakdown was nearly identical to the tally one year ago, which passed by a 663-345 tally. For a second straight year, just over a thousand voters turning up at the polls. By contrast, some 1600 votes were cast on the 2017-18 budget, which passed by a thumping 1104-496 count.
The school board will meet this coming Tuesday, May 28 to open and tally affidavit ballots and accept the overall voting results.