GESD passes $67M budget
GLOVERSVILLE — Voters in the Gloversville Enlarged School District passed the $67 million 2019-20 school budget on Tuesday.
The budget was approved by a vote of 284 to 99, a passage rate of 74 percent. The budget increases the tax levy by 2 percent to $15.01 million compared to the current year’s $14.72 million levy.
Final tax rates for the district’s five municipalities under the budget will be set later this year after final equalization rates are set by the state.
The budget includes the appropriation of $642,092 from the district fund balance and $618,847 from debt service, balanced by a $2.99 million increase in state aid to a total of $48.05 million. The budget maintains existing academic and extracurricular programs for students.
“We’re very grateful for the support of the community,” GESD Superintendent David Halloran said on Tuesday while reviewing results of the vote at Gloversville Middle School. “The community came out and supported it three to one, that’s a pretty good margin and I believe the low turnout is because people assumed it was going to pass.”
“I wish more people had turned out to vote, but I think we are continuing to be fiscally responsible and this is what our voters say even if they didn’t necessarily vote, their voices are heard,” Board of Education member Jennifer Pomeroy added.
Expenses included in the budget are the addition of a groundskeeper and the purchase of a new truck equipped with a plow for the employee’s use, the cost of leasing cardio equipment for the high school fitness room to replace broken equipment, the addition of a full-time athletic trainer in accordance with state recommendations, use of a new student assessment tool and the purchase of three school buses.
The district will also bring IT services in-house led by a new director and computer technician and communication services will be carried out by a new full-time communication specialist taking over the duties currently carried out part-time by Capital Region BOCES two days a week. The district’s assumption of communication responsibilities will generate a net savings of $12,300.
The budgeted expenses will be balanced in part through $1.3 million in reductions associated with switching carriers for retirees from the Medicare Advantage Plan to Humana and lower than expected premium increases for employee health insurance.
“I’m happy with the results obviously and I’m happy with [Treasurer Cathy Meher] and the business office doing their due diligence making sure that we are being fiscally responsible with the taxpayer’s money. I thought she did a nice job with the budget this year and I’m happy to have my three returning board members,” Halloran said.
In addition to the budget, voters elected three incumbent candidates to three open seats on the Board of Education. Running unopposed were current board President Robert Curtis, Kevin Kucel and Vincent Salvione. The returning board members will begin new three-year terms on July 1.
“I’m just happy that voters came out and supported the budget and supported the candidates that were up for election,” Curtis said following the vote.
In the coming three years Curtis said he plans to continue focusing on advancing the district’s current initiatives.
“Just to continue on the path we’re on right now, I think the district’s heading in a good direction, we just need to keep the needle moving,” Curtis said.
Salvione agreed that the district is moving in the right direction overall, but said he plans to focus on developing a solution to one issue that the district has limited recourse to address; high rates of chronic absenteeism.
“We have a big issue with attendance, we get judged on it by the state and we have no recourse to hold the parents accountable for that,” Salvione said.
During the May 14 Board of Education meeting, administrators reviewed the district’s statistics on rates of absenteeism up to that date reporting 587 students with 20 or more absences and 248 students with 20 or more unexcused absences.
The district has worked to engage parents throughout the year to try to boost attendance and is working with members of the Fulton County Department of Social Services, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and the Fulton County Probation Office on methods to ensure students attend school as required by law. But according to district officials, statewide trends have led to limited action being taken by the authorities and law enforcement agencies to compel families to make sure kids are in school.
“I think our community leaders as much as they’ve come together,” Salvione said. “We need to go further out to congressmen, assemblymen, state senators and figure out a bill of some sort, hopefully within the next three years, to start holding parents accountable for their kids not going to school, because I’m kind of sick and tired for our district getting beat up for that reason by the state.”
“We’re kind of handcuffed,” he added. “And I think it’s high time that we all get together and do something about it and start holding people accountable.”