A handy passage

Onteora voters approve of $50.5 million spending plan

by Lisa Childers
May 19, 2011 01:04 PM | 1 1 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Trustees tally the votes.
Photo by Lisa Childers.
Trustees tally the votes. Photo by Lisa Childers.
Voters in the May 17 Onteora district school-wide elections easily approved the 2011-2012 budget of $50,541,121, which represented a 1.04 percent increase in spending appropriations. The budget projects that the tax levy will increase by 3.73 percent under its provisions.

With heavy rains, floods and area power outages, voter turnout was significantly lower than years past. The towns of Shandaken/Lexington, Olive/Marbletown, Woodstock and West Hurley combined, passed the budget at a comfortable margin of 755 votes in favor to 607 against. Individual towns all voted in favor of the budget, except for the town of Olive which voted 229 in favor and 253 against. Olive has historically tended to reject the budget and had the highest voter turnout compared to other towns in the district. The Proposition that asked to approve the creation of a reserve account was easily given the thumbs-up, 760 to 564. The proposition did not appropriate any money for the account.

Very few people milled around waiting for results in the conference room in the main hallway of the Middle/High School. A small number of students were in attendance for High School Civics credit.

This was Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill first budget with the district and she was thrilled voters came out in support. “We put forward a very responsible budget in terms of the district and in terms of the community and we are thrilled that the budget has passed,” she said thanking the voters and board trustees. “We are grateful about Proposition two. It will allow us to move forward, to take care of multiple issues that have not been taken care of in the past.”

Three incumbent school board members were reelected without opposition. The highest vote getter was Ann McGillicuddy with 789 votes. Michael McKeon was just behind at 785 votes and Dan Spencer finished with 783 votes.

Because the school board was an uncontested race, celebrations were low key, with trustees continuing business as usual once the result came in. Spencer was absent. Olive was the only town with a few write in votes — former trustee Rick Wolff, who resigned his term midway through, former trustee Rita Vanacore, Roy Ware and R. Haldner each received one vote.

In other business conducted by trustees while waiting for polls to close:

The board approved expenditures of up to $400,000 for an overhaul of the fire alarm system in the Middle/High School and bus garage. Head of Building and Grounds, Jared Mance said the cost probably wouldn’t go that high. Assistant Superintendent for Business Victoria McLaren said the money would be coming from the undesignated fund balance that is projected to be above $2 million. She said most of that money would offset next year’s tax levy, while still having some left over. McLaren said, “We are in a positive financial state right now.”

Trustees also approved a SEQRA designation of the project as a type two action thus seeking approval from the State to bypass the SEQR review for the fire alarm system and a new boiler in the bus garage. Both projects will be creating no new footprint, but instead will replace already existing equipment with upgrades to State code.

Many Phoenicia residents and employees of the district were late getting to work and kids to school due to a power outage, that caused Phoenicia Elementary children to experience first hand what it was like to go to the high school. McGill said, “We decided it was a good day to test our emergency plan.” The district got word early in the day that the power at Phoenicia Elementary would be out for a while, activating an evacuation plan to move the students to the Middle/High School and thus avoiding a full district shut down. Seniors were out for the day, so there was plenty of space to house the children. Interim Superintendent Charlotte Gregory had put the plan into place. McGill said, “I won’t say academically it was the most productive day, but there was some productivity, the kids were able to have Physical Ed in the gym, some kids got to hear the High School chorus.” McGill added that since school stayed in session, the most needy children were able to have a hot breakfast and lunch. At one point during the afternoon, McGill wrote on the district website that Phoenicia polls were open, but voters might want to bring a flashlight. ++

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May 25, 2011
I downloaded the 2011 Onteora Budget and did some math. The budget and the Fallback Budget both contained close to 2.3 million dollars in salary increases. This number was obtained by adding up the line items listed as salary increases.

These are the toughest economic times in memory. The average district residents, aka taxpayers, are not getting raises, they are lucky to have a job at all. Had there been a salary freeze the budget would have passed intact with a decrease in the property tax.

We all need to share the pain. (You would have had the budget and your jobs while helping those who pay the bills)

This would have been a great lesson to teach the students.

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