Schoharie CSD residents approved a $24.8 million budget for the 2020-21 school year by a vote of 848 to 456.
Because of the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed all school district voting to be done through absentee ballot. The ballots were tallied beginning Tuesday, June 16 and the count was finished on Wednesday morning, June 17.
The fiscal plan would include a 1.81 percent increase to the tax levy, which is below the district’s state-mandated tax-levy limit of 6.1 percent. The budget’s objective is to sustain operations and programming not just for this year, but into the future, while remaining sensitive to the concerns of property owners, according to Superintendent David Blanchard.
Throughout the budget process, the district took into account possible mid-year cuts to state aid. Those mid-year cut projections to state aid range from 10 to 50 percent, based on the governor’s comments earlier this year. The budget went through several versions and is $639,281 less than a draft developed in late winter.
A school bus purchase proposition was also passed by a vote of 849 to 453. School board incumbents John Florussen and Laraine Gell, who were running for re-election unopposed, received 966 and 995 votes respectively.
CSD is anticipating an 8.5 percent reduction in revenue. The fiscal plan includes the elimination of 10 teaching and staff positions, mostly through not replacing vacancies and retirees. However, some positions will be subject to layoffs, field trips would be cut and some JV sports would be eliminated. In addition, sixth grade would be moving to the Middle School in order to right size the elementary school in terms of student population and account for density restrictions expected to be put in place due to COVID-19 concerns.
Blanchard said there remains a possibility a federal bailout could alleviate the revenue concerns as the next fiscal year gets underway. “The revenue side is certainly a concern, as it remains unknown,” he said. “We’re in unprecedented times with regard to the pandemic, and it’s a very uncertain time. I think the board, the administration and the teachers are hoping for a much better outcome than presented by the governor.”