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School Budget, Library Votes Today In New York

Composite photo by Dave Lucas

Voters in New York are deciding on school and library budgets and school board members today. 

In Albany, city voters are deciding a $260.4 million proposal that carries a 1.99 percent tax levy increase, under the 2 percent tax cap.

North Colonie is proposing a $116.3 million budget, also under the cap. Two proposed budgets carry 1.4 percent levy cuts: Schenectady's at nearly $202.5 million dollars and Guilderland's at $102.1 million.

Shenendehowa's $177.7 million dollar budget raises the tax levy 2.5 percent. A $114.1 million dollar proposal in Troy would raise the tax levy 1 percent.

Bethlehem Central District’s $100.8 million budget proposal carries a tax levy increase of 2.03 percent. In Saratoga Springs, the $129.5 million plan comes with a tax levy increase of 3.02%, which is just under the district’s limit.

An outlier is in Johnstown, where the proposed $38.6 million budget would mean a 35 percent tax levy hike.

New York State School Boards Association spokesman David Albert believes most of this year's proposals will pass.   "The vast majority of school districts are within their tax cap. Only 18 districts statewide are attempting to override the cap. It's the second-lowest number of districts attempting overrides since the cap went into place in 2012. Given the history of budgets that require only a simple majority for passage, because they're within their cap, given that it's an over 99 percent approval rate for those budget, I would think that we would see high levels of budget approval this year and for the district attempting overrides for those 18 districts. We tend to see about a 60 percent approval of those budgets, so, still greater than 50 percent."

Voters in many districts are also considering school board candidates and various propositions. There are three empty school board seats to be filled in Saratoga Springs. Seven candidates are on the ballot. In Schenectady, six candidates are vying for three seats, and there's a proposition to authorize the district to sell the former Elmer Avenue Elementary School for at least $450,000.

Albany voters will decide on a $45.6 million "facilities package" that would create a 650-student middle school at the former YMCA in North Albany and renovate Arbor Hill Elementary School.  

Albany Public Library's executive director Scott Jarzombek says there is no library budget vote this year because the library's 2020 budget carries no tax levy increase.   "We have gone out and kind of gotten additional funds from other sources, including being part of PILOT payments that are made to the city through the IDA, so we looked at our budget and decided that we didn't need to make an ask to the taxpayers for more."

There are four candidates for three seats on Albany's library board.

New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia urges voters to turn out.   "If they don't want the budget to pass or if they do want to, I am convinced that we need to become pro-active and civically engaged.”

Polls close at 9 p.m.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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