EDITOR'S NOTE:?As 2012 draws to a close, The Leader-Herald is reviewing the top local news stories of the year in a five-day series. Today, we look at the top local education, tourism, religion and social news.
Some local schools saw changes as a result of budgetary constraints this year, Fulton-Montgomery Community College added student housing, and Oppenheim-Ephratah school voters agreed to merge their district with St. Johnsville.
Those issues were among the top local education stories of 2012.
New student housing at
College, shown in August, opened this year.
Districts for the first time in May presented budgets tightened by a state-mandated tax-levy cap. Voters in most districts passed their budgets. This year, if the tax levy was above the state-mandated tax cap, a majority of 60 percent of the vote was needed to pass. In Fonda-Fultonville and Oppenheim-Ephratah, the budgets were voted down.
The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District proposed a $24.19 million plan that called for a 7.96 percent increase in the tax levy. The state set the district's tax cap at a 4.76 percent increase.
The Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District proposed an $8.5 million budget that called for a 4.5 percent
tax-levy increase. The state set that district's tax cap at 2.79 percent. Voters rejected the proposal.
The district's second budget proposal also was voted down in June. It proposed a 2.79 percent tax-levy increase, which would have cut spending by $207,000 compared to the 2011-12 budget. The district was then required by state law to put an $8.4 million contingency budget into effect.
The district cut another $116,000 from spending to arrive at the contingency plan and said it would eliminate the purchase of a new bus and other equipment, including computers and bus cameras.
In midyear budget cuts, the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District is cutting an estimated $410,000 from the 2012-13 budget, including spring sports and operation of the school pool.
The board had to make midyear cuts because the district found a $500,000 budget shortfall as a result of state aid cuts, lower enrollment and unexpected costs.
The district's budget was approved in June in a revote as voters approved a $23.9 million budget for the 2012-13 school year that calls for a 3.5 percent tax increase.
The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services was forced to cut 14 full-time and two part-time positions based on the needs of its component districts. As districts required fewer services from BOCES, jobs were cut.
School districts took their financial concerns to Albany this year about what many see as inequity in funding between wealthy districts and rural upstate districts.
Oppenheim-Ephratah voters approved a merger with the St. Johnsville school district in a 385-366 vote. The merger will take effect July 1.
A year ago, district residents rejected the proposed merger in a vote of 458-400. St. Johnsville school voters approved the merger last December.
According to a merger report, the merger will help both districts financially by paying for 98 percent of any construction in the first 10 years of the merged districts and an additional $14 million in aid over 14 years to make improvements, expand curriculum, stabilize property taxes and build savings, according to the merger study. The districts will benefit from higher state aid on the remaining capital debt, saving $390,000.
In another merger vote this year, the proposed merger of the Northville and Mayfield districts was rejected by voters.
Shared bus service
As districts looked to save money, they also looked to merge services this year.
Gloversville and Johnstown began sharing Gloversville's bus garage. The system is run under BOCES instead of by the two separate districts.
HFM BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel recently lauded it as an example for other districts.
Former Liberty Central School District Superintendent Michael Vanyo was chosen by the Gloversville Board of Education as the district's new superintendent.
Months earlier, the school district chose Monticello Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Newman Sr. to be the Gloversville district's new superintendent, but the deal fell through over a residency issue.
In the Northville Central School District, Superintendent Kathy Dougherty left her post and is now an interim principal at Park Terrace in Gloversville after Principal Steve Pavone's retirement.
Meanwhile, Fonda-Fultonville Superintendent James Hoffman left his district to work at the Averill Park Central School District in Rensselaer County.
Canajoharie also hired a new superintendent - Debbie Grimshaw - this year after Richard Rose retired.
In Gloversville, a petition including five signed affidavits from school board members Frank Carangelo, Joseph Andrews, Polly Peck, Michael Hauser and Robert Curtis was filed to oust Board President Pete Semione from his seat over what they say were threatening remarks. Semione denies the allegations, and the state could settle the matter in six to eight months.
Fulton-Montgomery Community College added 144 new beds to its student housing near the campus this year.
Renovations were also completed at the dining facilities.
The $7.1 million project was funded through part of an $11.3 million loan from the USDA. Those funds also went toward hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs to the existing building and the installation of a sprinkler system that extinguished a small fire earlier this semester.
More renovations are planned.
A slow start
Mayfield Central School District's start was delayed for three days while the village repaired a water problem in September.
Officials had to search for the location of a water main break that led to the significantly decreased water pressure in the village.
They found the break at Woodside Avenue and Green Street intersection.
The break also caused several businesses in the village to close.