No staff and program cuts, but higher taxes in 2017-2018 budget for Schodack Schools

SCHODACK — Residents in the sleepy cow town will head to the polls Tuesday to vote on a $23,049,965 budget to fund their school district next year.

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The budget, which is up 4.4 percent from the current year’s allowance of $22,075,681, features zero cuts to programs or staff. But taxpayers can expect to pay more, as the proposed budget calls for a 2.34 percent tax rate hike and a 2.94 percent increase in the tax levy. The spending plan falls below the state’s tax cap.

With the increase in taxes, the district would be able to collect an additional $306,606 in revenue. For a homeowner whose house is assessed at $200,000 the tax increase comes out to an additional $108.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Lee Bordick explained that the increase in spending will help offset debt accumulated from the district’s capital improvement project. “We are looking into the future [for] when this capital project becomes part of our debt. We’re taking measures to put any additional funds into a debt service fund, so that when those spikes hit we’ll be prepared so you won’t have a significant increase [in taxes] in the future.”

The district is currently in the process of paying off debt acquired from a remodel and expansion to Castleton Elementary School. Once that debt is paid off in 2019, Schodack will begin signing checks related to its current capital improvement project.

The project, which is scheduled to be complete in time for the 2018-2019 school year, brings needed improvements to Maple Hill High School and a science lab to Castleton Elementary School. When completed, the project will allow for the redistribution of students into two buildings and reapplication of space inside Maple Hill Middle School.

On July 5, 2016, the project’s father and visionary, superintendent Robert Horan passed away suddenly – raising questions and concerns about the future of “the great plan for Schodack” spearheaded by the beloved educator  – but the train continues in his honor.

“We’re going to take up that challenge and continue the capital project because that was his vision for the kids here at Schodack, said math teacher and education technologies administrator Tim Ryan during a memorial service in 2016.

Also on the ballot is a proposed measure to purchase three new school buses at a local cost of $104,601 to the district. The two 65-passenger buses and lone 25-passenger bus are scheduled for purchase under the district’s long-term bus replacement plan.

“They look carefully at the existing fleet, they look at mileage and number of years” Bordick said. “Typically the bodies of the buses tend to rust out before they reach the set mileage number.”

A trio of open seats on the Board of Education are set to be filled by Christian Olsen (incumbent), Paul Puccio (incumbent) and Charles Peter. They are all running unopposed.

In 2016, the District achieved the highest graduation rate in the region at 99 percent high school completion.

Polls at Maple Hill High School will open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6, 2017.

-Dylan Rossiter – @ByDylanRossiter Rossiter@518Sports.com

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