Voters are deciding on school budgets across New York today.
The Albany City School District has proposed a $240 million spending plan that comes in 2.62 percent above the current-year budget of $234 million.
No tax increase there, but also on the ballot: Should Albany Public Library raise the tax levy to prop up a $7 million budget? Library Executive Director Scott Jarzombek: "The Albany Public Library is asking for a 1.5 percent increase over the current year's budget. That will be an increase of $3.49 for a home that's assessed at $150,000 a year. The library is a civic space, it's very important to the city of Albany. We have seven community branches throughout the city. And this modest ask is because we're seeing an increase in usage, particularly in meeting room use and program participation. Libraries aren't the way they were 30 years ago where someone would come in the door to get a book and then leave. People are spending an incredible amount of time in these buildings because they're the civic space that is open during the day. And we believe that this $3.49 will help us increase that service and meet that demand."
In addition to the budget, voters in the North Colonie school district will cast ballots on a $106.2 million proposal to renovate all the district's schools, reduced by $90 million from a proposition voters nixed back in December.
As enrollment grows, Superintendent D. Joseph Corr says the capital project is vital to the district's future. "We made an effort to reach out to our community. We held two community forums and the Board of Education also took input in late March at two meetings. We are addressing our most immediate need first, which is the enrollment burst at the elementary schools. We are moving our sixth grade out of our elementary schools into our junior high to make that a 6-7-8 middle school. That will release some of the pressure that exists down there and we're significantly renovating our middle school by adding space and modernizing space. And it looks like our public has come out to vote. We've had a steady stream of voters ever since polls opened at 6 a.m. this morning."
Elsewhere, a $39 million spending plan on the table in Ichabod Crane Central School District comes with a 1.47 percent tax hike. Voters in Troy have before them a budget that would raise taxes 0.4 percent. The Rensselaer budget would see taxes drop by about 11 percent. Hoosic Valley taxpayers would see a 1.15 percent drop.
Under a proposed $186 million budget, the tax levy in Schenectady would fall 2 percent. Taxes would fall 0.5 percent in Berne-Knox-Westerlo. Heading west, Amsterdam is looking at a 1 percent tax hike under a $69.5 million spending plan; Canajoharie voters are deciding on a $21.9 million package that hikes taxes 1.53 percent; Utica voters have before them a $173 million budget with no property tax increase.
Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Billy Easton says all of the proposed budgets are important to pass. "I think we're in better shape than we were a few years ago. We're still not where we need to be in terms of the state stepping up to the plate and undertaking its responsibility to provide adequate resources, but we have seen that schools this year, many school districts are able to make some improvements as a result of the state budget, and that's important."
Although a number of school districts in the North Country have reached the tax cap, none have plans to override it. The average tax increase throughout the Capital Region comes to 0.9 percent. Regionwide all districts fall within the state property tax cap. Statewide, 12 districts out of 669 are looking to override the cap.
Throughout the Hudson Valley region, voters are deciding on 71 school budgets.
All polls close at 9 p.m. except in Kiryas Joel where they close at 8 p.m.
Albany city residents: