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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 19, 2011
By Saranac Hale Spencer
BETHLEHEM Two incumbents kept their seats on the school board and newcomer Caitrin Navarro came in third, filling the empty seat left by outgoing board president James Dering, who chose not to seek re-election.
Of the eight candidates for school board, half gathered on Tuesday night with supporters and administrators in the high-school gym the group was silent as the tallies from the backs of the voting machines were read aloud.
The $87 million budget passed easily, with 67 percent of the nearly 5,000 voters approving the spending plan. The budget is lower than it has been for the last two years and carries a tax levy increase of 2 percent. The amount that the district must collect in taxes is higher this year because revenue from other sources, like state aid, is lower than in previous years.
In preparation for the development of next year’s budget, which may be held to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2-percent tax levy cap, the district presented voters with a budget on Tuesday that would meet the proposed cap. The governor’s plan would keep the tax levy increase from school and municipal budgets to less 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, but would allow for a steeper increase if at least 60 percent of voters approve it.
The district’s proposition to spend $375,000 on six buses passed by a smaller margin, with 54 percent of the vote.
“They got the budget and the buses,” said Don Kawczak, after the results were in. He was one of three candidates from the Clarksville area to run for the school board this year.
Many Clarksville residents organized earlier this year when the school board asked the superintendent to gather information about the possibility of closing Clarksville’s elementary school as a means of saving money. Within three months of requesting the information, the board voted, 5 to 2, to close the rural school, the only one of the district’s six elementary schools that had been located in the town of New Scotland.
The district expects to save $800,000 by closing the school. That figure contributed to the 2011-12 budget being lower than the previous two years as do the concessions from each of the unions in the district. The unions agreed to pay freezes for a savings of $1.1 million.
Kawczak came in sixth, with 10 percent of the vote. Mary Danckert Collins, also from Clarksville, came in just ahead, with 11 percent, and Harmeet Narang, who was vocal in his opposition to Clarksville’s closure in the months leading up to the board’s vote, came in fourth, with 13 percent of the vote.
Laura Ladd Bierman, an incumbent, was the top vote getter, with 21 percent, followed by Matthew Downey, also an incumbent, who garnered 19 percent of the vote.
Caitrin Navarro, who was making her first run for the board, came in third, getting 16 percent of the vote.
Peter Scotto and Vincent Potenza, who each made his first run, came in seventh and eighth, respectively, with 6 percent and 4 percent of the vote.