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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 17, 2009

School board plans community workshop for budget forecast

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Even as it faces state delays in aid payments this month, the school district here is gearing up to take a long-range look at budgeting.

At its meeting last Tuesday, the board set Jan. 26 as the date for a community meeting on forecasting the future.

School board President Richard Weisz, who has been advocating for the meeting, suggested setting up small discussion groups. He said he wants to involve a cross-section of the community.

“We’d better get a planning group together,” said Superintendent John McGuire.

Weisz said he wants to “start talking about what 2012, ’13, and ’14 might look like.”

As the state faces its own budget shortfall, making cuts in aid likely, the federal stimulus funds, which closed the gap this year, are slated to last just one more year.

Board member Gloria Towle-Hilt suggested that board members could serve as recorders of what the small discussion groups talk about. She contrasted that with the role of observer assumed by board members at a community budget meeting last year.

Building project

The board approved four motions relating to added work on the building expansion and improvement project currently underway. Because of the economy, bids came in lower than predicted and the project had money to spare. At the Oct. 20 school board meeting, board members were enthusiastic about adding close to $2 million in projects — all for the same $27 million voters had approved.

On Dec. 8, the board approved: paying more money for architectural services from CSArch; amending the agreement with Sano-Rubin Construction Co., paying more for a second shift so work can be completed sooner; awarding a bid to test roofs for asbestos and to check the condition of the roofs; and paying for a topographic survey and map of underground utilities.

All of these added costs will still be covered by the $27 million voters approved, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders, and $125,000 remains in the incidental budget.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Decided to hold its budget vote on the state-set date of May 18, 2010. The Jewish holy day of Shavuot begins at sunset on that day and the State Education Department is allowing school districts to choose an alternate date.

Shavuot came at the end of the wheat harvest in ancient Israel and marked the beginning of summer. In modern times, it is often used to celebrate the confirmation of young Jews since the day commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

Board member Colleen O’Connell said she had checked with Linda Bakst, a former Guilderland School Board member, because Bakst is Jewish and works for the New York State School Boards Association, and was told that Shavuot is “really only celebrated by the most observant of Jews”;

— Heard from McGuire that all of the fall sports teams qualified for the 2009 Scholar Athlete Team Award, meaning each team had at least a 90 percent academic average;

—         Agreed that O’Connell, Judy Slack, Towle-Hilt, and Emilio Genzano would meet with trustees of the Guilderland Public Library in January;

—         Were presented, for review, with four policies — on citizens’ advisory committees, on students with disabilities, on food-service management, and on free and reduced-price food services;

—         Agreed to participate in the New York School and Municipal Energy Consortium;

—         Approved an application for a tax-roll correction for 2009, which, Sanders said, was due to a clerical error where some exemptions were not applied;

—         Adopted a Medicaid compliance program and appointed John Rizzo as the district’s medical compliance officer. Guilderland this year meets the $500,000 threshold requiring the program, said Sanders, which is “to control any attempt at abuse of services”;

—         Awarded RIS Paper Co., Inc. the bid for copy paper at $20,244, which was tied with a bid from W.B. Mason. “RIS has been very competitive in the past,” said Sanders;

—         Adopted the new income schedule allowed by the state for exemptions for senior citizens and property owners with disabilities. Those earning $29,000 or less get a 50-percent tax exemption The scale slides so that, at the top, those earning between $36,500 and $37,400 get a 5-percent exemption;

—         Accepted a flute donated by Dominic Curro for use in the music department at Farnsworth Middle School;

—         Heard from O’Connell who chairs the board’s audit committee, that the hotline for anonymous tips about possible abuses had received its fourth phone call. The caller was concerned about student residency. The district determined that the student in question lived in the district and was entitled to attend school in Guilderland; and

—         After meeting in executive session, approved the Nov. 17 addendum to McGuire’s contract, authorizing the payment of $174,000 for the current school year. The board had postponed the vote, scheduled for Nov. 17, since two members were absent. Since then, McGuire has announced that he will retire on July 1, 2010.

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