School Budget votes are just days away, and on May 15 New York State residents will flock to the polls: Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports many of them must make difficult choices when they cast their ballots next week.
A survey of 403 of New York's 697 districts, released Wednesday by the state School Boards Association and the state Association of School Business Officials, shows that many districts cut positions, reduced programs, and tapped reserve funds to ensure compliance with the tax cap as they wrote their budgets for the 2012-13 school year.
Among the survey's findings: 30 percent will cut transportation.
Voters in nine of 16 local school districts in the lower Hudson Valley will be asked to approve separate propositions for districts to purchase school buses and vans.
Wappingers Central has the largest proposition, asking voters to approve just over $2 million to purchase vehicles.
District officials say a number of its large busses are ageing: a combination of high mileage and rust. Wappingers school board President Lori Jiava says some of the busses can't pass inspection. She says the state will reimburse the district about 52 percent of the bus cost.
Other districts are not so lucky: many plan to make cuts to both teaching and non-teaching positions, others will cut sports programs and extracurricular activities.
Other bus propositions range from $155,089 in Highland Central School District, where voters are also being asked to approve a 5.12 percent tax levy increase by a 60 percent margin, to over $900,000 in Arlington Central School
District, where Assistant Superintendent for Business Robin Zimmerman says the district is trying to be efficient in the way it spends its dollars, trying to strike a balance between what families can afford and what the school district needs
Hyde Park voters are being asked to approve just over $520,000 to purchase five buses. And Poughkeepsie City School District voters will be asked to approve $100-thousand to bus all kindergarten students.
New in the mix this year: school districts have the added challenge of staying within the new property tax cap. Districts are prohibited from increasing the tax levy by over two percent (keep in mind that exact number varies per district), and if they do, the budget needs a supermajority of 60 percent to pass. Last year, 251 districts increased taxes by 2 percent or more by passing budgets with a supermajority, according to the New York State School Boards Association.