All Guilderland spending plans sail through

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Laughter prevailed as the final ballot numbers were displayed on a large screen at the Guilderland Elementary School gym on Tuesday night.

GUILDERLAND — Next year’s Guilderland spending plans — for the schools and school buses and for the public library — sailed through on Election Day, May 16, as unopposed board candidates were returned to their seats.

Unlike last year, when Election Night was tense as 10 candidates vied for four school board seats, this year, the mood in the Guilderland Elementary School gym was relaxed as a dozen people gathered to see the results come in from the five elementary-school polling places and both the library and school elections were uncontested.

The $120 million school district budget passed with 70 percent of the vote: 1,513 to 646.

This was less than half of the 4,698 votes cast in last year’s budget vote. In May 2022, voters in the Altamont area had the highest turnout at just 26 percent of eligible voters, followed by Pine Bush at 20 percent, Lynnwood at 19 percent, Guilderland at 17 percent, and Westmere at 14 percent.

Statewide, over the past decade, an average of 10 percent of eligible voters have cast ballots on school district budgets, according to an analysis by the New York State School Boards Association.

This year, according to preliminary results compiled by the association, 98.5 percent of proposed school district budgets passed.

Next year’s Guilderland budget represents a 8.99-percent increase over this year’s spending plan; the 2.96-percent levy increase stays under the state-set tax cap.

After the results were in, Superintendent Marie Wiles told The Enterprise, “I am delighted — in particular for Farnsworth Middle School and their enormous class sizes.”

With the historic restoration of Foundation Aid from the state, the Guilderland budget maintained all current programs and added staff to reduce the class sizes in the sixth and seventh grades at Farnsworth as it had done for eighth grade in the current year.

“It will make a big, big difference,” said Wiles of the smaller class sizes.

She also praised the rigorous programs and social-emotional supports that the 2023-24 budget finances and concluded, “I’m very grateful to our community.”

The biggest margin — at 72 percent voting in favor — was for a $1.2 million bus and equipment proposition that passed 1,543 to 610. State aid will return about half of that cost to the district.

It will buy six 65-passenger buses, two 35-passenger buses, and a pickup truck.

Last year, a slate backed by the teachers’ union decisively beat a slate that was part of the national Pro-parent Choice movement. This year, only three incumbents ran for three unpaid posts:

— Judy Slack came in first with 1,610 votes. She has served on the school board for 15 years and previously worked as a Guilderland teacher’s assistant for 24 years. Before that, as a mother with three children in the schools, she served as a volunteer.

“I’m very pleased people think highly of me,” Slack said on Election Night, “and I’m thrilled the budget passed by a big margin. It shows people value our schools and value our community … It’s a good place to live”;

— Rebecca Butterfield came in a close second with 1,607 votes. A pediatrician, she won a second three-year term after being appointed to fill a vacancy. She has been a strong proponent of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the district.

Her son, Conor Webb, A Guilderland High School student and an advocate for gun safety, was with her on Election Night.

“I’m excited and grateful to be elected,” Butterfield said. She noted it was “a much different race this year, a lot less divisive” and also said she looked forward to serving the community; and

— Kimberly Blasiak came in third with 1,584 votes. She was chosen among six applicants to fill a vacancy in October 2020 and ran with the winning slate last year but, coming in fourth, had to run again this year for a full three-year term.

Blasiak called this year’s run “a little bit of relief” and said, “I’m very happy to be serving again, happy to continue to work.”

Blasiak, who has four children in the Guilderland schools, is a long-time advocate for children with special needs.

She said on Election Night that it is always hard to see a budget increase but “things are going up all over the place and we want our students to be successful.”

The unpaid posts on the nine-member board are for three years.



“It’s a date night for us,” said Marie Wiles as her husband, Timothy, director of the Guilderland Public Library, stood beside her.

As the night wore on, a bit of a friendly rivalry developed between the two library trustees on the scene and the six school board members to see which budget — the library’s or the school’s — got the largest share of “yes” votes.

After the polls closed at 9 p.m., the numbers from Altamont Elementary School were the first in, projected on the big screen in the gym as Assistant Superintendent for Business Andrew Van Alstyne and his predecessor, Neil Sanders, worked behind the scenes to post the numbers.

Numbers followed every 10 minutes or so — from Westmere, Guilderland, Lynnwood, and finally, at 9:53 p.m., from Pine Bush.

In the end, the library has a slightly smaller victory percentage — 69 percent — than the school budget: 1,486 to 660.

 The $4.3 million library budget for next year, which Timothy Wiles had described as a “business as usual” budget, has a levy increase of 2.68 percent, which is under the state-set cap.

“I’m delighted the community continues to support the library,” he said on Election Night.

He went on, “I would say thank you, and I would also say, if you’re voting no, I’d like to hear from you so we could figure out what to do so you could support the library.”

He noted that the Guilderland library is in the midst of updating its strategic plan and he said that part of that process is “figuring out what people don’t know” about the library.

As an example, he said that half of the library’s use now is for streaming online, and he surmised many people pay for that when they could get it for free from the library.

The two trustees elected Tuesday will each serve five years on the library’s 11-member unpaid board:

— William Cooney, making his first run for the post, got the most votes — 1,574. A Lansingburgh native, he has lived in Guilderland for nine years and has a bachelor’s degree in history from Siena College and a law degree from Georgetown University.

“I grew up reading history and biography books from the Troy Public Library and writing history term papers at the Siena and SUNY Albany libraries,” he wrote in answer to questions posed by the library. “GPL, especially the childrens’ library and activities, has been an important center for my family since we moved here” and

— Corie Dugas came in second with 1,525 votes. Dugas was elected last year as she and six other residents launched last-minute write-in campaigns after only one candidate had filed a petition and four slots were vacant. Dugas came in third among the write-in winners and so has completed the one-year term of a trustee who left early. She works as the executive director of the NELLCO Law Library Consortium, based in Albany.

 Dugan told the library of her reason for running, “Guilderland is a diverse and vibrant community, and I appreciate having the opportunity to help shape the future of the library so that it serves the needs of the community. The programs, services, and resources the library provides are top tier, and I hope that my role as Trustee helps these initiatives continue to thrive.”

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