Residents in three upstate New York school districts go back to the polls today to cast budget revotes.
After original budget proposals were rejected in June, school districts were permitted to hold a July 28 revote, under an executive order issued earlier this month by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Johnstown voters are weighing a $38.9 million dollar budget, which would raise taxes 5 percent. Interim superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District Dr. Karen Geelan says when the initial budget vote failed "the community demanded a revote."
"Our Board of Education then decided to go back out for the revote on the budget because we were given that opportunity to do so. There wasn't any adjustment to the budget when we went out for the revote. What's at stake for us? Well, just like everyone else, you're not allowed under a contingency budget to purchase any new equipment, so we do have some equipment purchases, a snow plow that we've been putting off for a couple of years we are hoping to be able to purchase. We would add some to all of our student activities, extracurriculars, any athletics. We have curriculum and instruction leaders and a variety of positions that would be lost in the district as well. And this is in a district where we have had 47 positions cut in the last handful of years. So it's now as if there's that what some referred to as 'low hanging fruit' or refer to it as 'fluff in the budget,' there's nothing like that in Johnstown."
Polls close at 8 p.m.
Voters in the Rensselaer City School District will decide on a $27.1 million spending plan that eliminates funding for sports programs and proposes a 9 percent tax levy hike.
Last month, voters rejected a $27.7 million dollar package that would have increased taxes by 19.5 percent. Rensselaer Superintendent Joseph Kardash:
"We put out the first budget in hopes that we could bridge our revenue deficit without eliminating any opportunities for kids but knowing it was a tough time to ask for money like that. We certainly had our doubts. When we heard from the community, when the vote came out, we're listening loud and clear, we understand that we can't fix the problem all here and now, so we put out a budget that cuts that less than half but it also required us to dig deeper into our cuts, and unfortunately eliminates some opportunities that we wouldn't otherwise really want to. But our hopes are that we'll be able to get hose back by next year. Our hopes are that the community can see that we listen very clearly, and will come out and show their support in the budget."
A supermajority, 60 percent of district residents, will have to cast "yes" votes to pass the budget. Polls are open until 9.
Ft. Edward voters can cast ballots today in the elementary school library until 8 p.m. for an $11.6 million dollar budget that would hike taxes 14 percent.
Speaking during a July 21 revote budget hearing, Fort Edward Union Free School District Superintendent Dan Ward laid out the two possible scenarios.
"The budget's gonna pass in a supermajority or the budget will be defeated. And that will give is one of these two tax rates. The budget revote tax rate, $33.37 per thousand or the contingent budget tax rate of $29.27."
Ward says if a contingent budget is adopted, an additional $422,000 in reductions will be needed to meet the zero tax levy increase requirement.
"In the first proposed budget we already included the reduction and elimination of over 20 positions as well as reductions in many budget lines to get to that first proposed budget and it was defeated."
Any district that adopts a contingency budget is required to freeze its tax levy at the current level.
Officials encourage voters to wear masks and practice social distancing while voting.