Voters refuse to let school districts break tax cap (with chart)
The three local school districts that tried, in vain, to have voters override the state’s new cap on property tax levies have one more chance to get their 2012-13 budgets passed. Lacking that approval, their levies will have to remain at 2011-12 levels, which will force spending cuts.
The over-the-cap budgets in the New Paltz, Highland and Germantown school districts were the only ones in the region that failed at the polls on Tuesday. The other 13, all of which proposed tax levies that were under the cap, were approved by voters, and generally by wide margins.
District-by-district results at a glance.
Budgets that exceeded the state’s new cap had to win “yes” votes from at least 60 percent of the people casting ballots, a so-called “supermajority.” The New Paltz and Highland budgets won majority support but fell short of the 60 percent. Germantown’s budget lacked support from even a simple majority.
The New Paltz budget proposal missed supermajority approval by just 18 votes, drawing 59.4 percent support.
New Paltz Superintendent Maria Rice said on Wednesday that she expects the school board to put a revised budget proposal before district voters on June 19 that would raise the tax levy less than the district’s 3.4 percent cap and require only simple majority approval.
Highland’s superintendent was critical of the new rules.
“I think the whole thought that a ‘no’ vote can count more than a ‘yes’ vote is flawed in a democratic society,” Deborah Haab said on Wednesday after 51 percent of Highland voters cast ballots in favor of the district’s proposed budget for 2012-13.
Haab said the school board will hold a special meeting in the near future to discuss the district’s next steps.
Germantown voters outright rejected their school district’s proposal to raise the property tax levy by 5.2 percent when the district’s state-set cap was 1.71 percent. Continued...
Germantown Superintendent Patrick Gabriel said on Wednesday that it will be a couple of days before he comes up with a recommendation for how to proceed. The Germantown school board next meets Wednesday.
In Highland and Germantown, two of the region’s smaller school districts, with projected 2012-13 enrollments of 576 and 2,010, respectively, say the cap has put their districts in financial distress and caused them to questioned the long-term viability of their districts.
The Highland school board, in particular, has a tough decision about how to proceed. The budget proposal rejected by voters on Tuesday would have raised the property tax levy 5.12 percent, while the district’s cap is a 0.87 percent. Haab said the district’s cap was the lowest in the region because a state aid payment scheduled for 2012-13 for an Excel capital project impacted the calculation of the cap.
Several of the region’s school districts have made controversial decisions in recent months to restructure their operations, and voters approved 2012-13 budget proposals in each.
The Kingston, Rondout Valley and Hyde Park school districts are planning to shut down one elementary school apiece this fall, and Onteora is turning its three K-6 elementary schools into two schools housing grades K-3 and one housing grades 4-6.
The Saugerties school district, meanwhile, had a budget approved on Tuesday for the first time in three years, assuming the 1,439-1,351 vote holds up. (There still are 93 affidavit ballots to be counted, but 91 of them would have to be “no” votes for the budget to fail.)
George Heidcamp, president of the Saugerties school board, said the public’s approval of the budget and the fact the all incumbent school board candidates on the ballot were re-elected shows district residents are satisfied, though he expressed disappointment with the voter turnout.
In addition to school budgets, voters in the region approved a handful of initiatives to upgrade school infrastructure and equipment, including an $8 million capital project that will begin to address $130 million of infrastructure needs in Kingston school district buildings.
The project, which will not affect the tax levy because it pairs the district’s capital reserves with state aid, includes roof replacements at M. Clifford Miller Middle School and Harry L. Edson and John F. Kennedy elementary schools.
Kingston voters also approved propositions authorizing the district to sell Frank L. Meagher Elementary School, which will close after the current school year, and the district’s administrative headquarters in Uptown Kingston. Continued...
Other propositions area voters approved included a middle school repair project in Marlboro; school bus purchases in New Paltz and Hyde Park; and another vehicle proposition in Hunter-Tannersville.
Staff writers Kyle Wind and Ariel Zangla and correspondent William Kemble contributed to this report.
See inaccurate information in a story? Other feedback and/or ideas for us to consider? Tell us here.
Location, ST | website.com
National News Videos
- EDITORIAL: Kingston school board looks the other way ... again (1433)
- Catskill Mountain Railroad members barred from serving on Ulster County Railroad Advisory Committee (video) (611)
- Law & Disorder: May 18, 2013 (608)
- Kingston High School choir enjoys musical milestones (video) (569)
- Law & Disorder (May 17, 2013) (567)
- Ulster County grand jury indicts five (318)
- Metro-North train crash in Connecticut sends 60 to hospital (270)
- Group raps Hinchey over change of heart on Cantine Dam viewing (70)
- Dick Trickle, former NASCAR driver, dies at 71 (55)
- Kingston High School coaching volunteer charged with rape after alleged sexual contact with two teen girls (9)
- Catskill 3500 Club members hike region's highest peaks (video) (9)
- Injured turkey vulture rescued in Kingston is released after rehabilitation (video) (8)
- Rhinebeck Aerodrome ready to fly (video) (7)
Recent Activity on Facebook
We'll be using this blog to publicize corrections to stories, to explain, if possible, how we made a particular mistake and to give you a better window into our reporting process.
City Editor Jeremy Schiffres comments about the news of the day and other topics that he finds interesting.