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School, library votes set for Tuesday in New York communities

New York voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide on school and library budgets and school board members.
Dave Lucas
New York voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide on school and library budgets and school board members.

New York voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide on school and library budgets and school board members.  

Bethlehem Central School District voters in Albany County will consider a $114 million budget for the 2024-25 school year that officials say would maintain smaller class sizes and support the district’s core values. It includes a 3.25% tax levy increase, which falls below the tax cap. The budget marks a 6.89% increase compared to the current budget. The plan does not incorporate any use of the district’s fund balance.

Bethlehem Public Library has proposed a $4.98 million budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year. The levy portion of the budget comes in at nearly $4.6 million, a 4.32 percent increase over last year.

There are eight candidates for library trustees vying for three seats in Bethlehem.

Twelve candidates are vying for three open seats for Albany Public Library trustees. The library's proposed 2024-2025 operating tax levy of $7.8 million reflects a 2 percent increase in the annual total tax levy, and is under the tax cap. If approved by voters the increase means that the owner of a $250,000 home would pay approximately $9.15 more in library taxes next year.

The Albany City School District's $326 million budget proposal includes no tax levy increase for the second year in a row. One school board seat is up for election. Assistant Superintendent Joe Karas says the new spending plan includes adding more than two dozen new positions.

"Five more special education teachers. We are going deep into our dual language program. So we are adding another teacher into that school. We are adding two new school counselors at Albany High School to help with transfer forms and other needs for our school for our students," said Karas. "An additional three hall monitors, clerical staff, maintenance staff. We are adding one more human resource staff member to help with recruitment and diversity of our staff. We are also adding a communication staff member. Our high school is a very big building. It has about 2,600 to 2,700 students in it. And there's a lot going on every day. So this communication staff member will help support the high school and the athletics they're within. We are also moving a teacher or putting our music teacher on special assignment to help with training and support for additional, other music teachers within our district. And then we're adding a .5 dance teacher and a .5 math coach."

There are also three propositions on the ballot, including one to create a $20 million Capital Reserve fund for future facilities improvements. Another would purchase two 10-passenger vehicles for moving students. Albany has traditionally relied on the Capital District Transportation Authority to move most of its students. The third would purchase a parking lot it currently rents on Spruce Street near Academy Park.

The Schenectady School District's budget proposal of $277 million is a 4.7% increase over the current year. The proposal maintains all current programs and staffing levels and will have no impact on the tax levy for the sixth consecutive year. Three candidates are running for two open seats on the board.

The Troy City School District is proposing a $133 million budget with no tax levy hike for the fourth consecutive year.

Voters in the East Greenbush Central School District will consider a $111 million budget proposal that maintains all programs and services with a 0.55% tax levy increase.

Catskill Central School District's proposed budget totals $49 million and carries no tax levy increase. The district says spending is down more than $457,00, about a 1 percent decrease from the 2023-24 budget.

And the Hudson City School District's proposed budget is 2% higher than the present one, totaling a little more than $55.6 million.

Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Marina Marcou-O'Malley urges people need to go out and vote for the school budgets Tuesday.

"Students, needs are, indeed, at an all-time high. And we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to meet them. And that means more teachers," said Marcou-O'Malley. " It means more social workers, it means more school psychologists, it means extra reading and math coaches, it means a lot of, preserving a lot of jobs, and making sure that we have the services that we need for New Yorkers and for social-emotional supports that our kids need."

 Voting hours may vary by district, but in general, polls are open 7 a.m. until 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.