BKW election: All items accepted by voters

Enterprise file photo — Noah Zweifel

Berne-Knox-Westerlo's bulldog mascot stands proudly at the school's campus.

HILLTOWNS — It’s another banner year for the Berne-Knox-Westerlo ballot. 

Berne-Knox-Westerlo voters re-elected incumbent, unchallenged school board candidates Matthew Tedeschi and Rebecca Miller; approved the district’s $24.7 million budget; and authorized the purchase of several buses, as well as a property — 1772 Helderberg Trail, home of Helderberg Healthcare — which is adjacent to campus. 

The budget passed with 295 residents in favor and 108 opposed. The property purchase had 241 residents in favor and 165 opposed. The bus proposition passed 307-to-100, and Tedeschi was re-elected with 309 votes, while Miller was re-elected with 312. 

There was little doubt the items would soar through, given the nature of each.

Tedeschi and Miller, who are going on to their third and second terms, respectively, ran uncontested, sparing the community a hectic election season dominated by social issues like critical race theory and sex education, as was seen in districts across the country, including Guilderland and Voorheesville. 

The BKW budget for next year features a 0.5 percent tax-levy decrease while raising spending by more than 4 percent, including bond payments for the district’s massive capital project, authorized in 2017 and completed last year, which has so far not cost taxpayers any extra money. 

The bus proposition is similar to that which is put forward annually. Next year, the district will spend $504,000 to replace three 66-passenger buses and two smaller ones. The purchase will be partially funded by the district’s reserve account, and is eligible for state aid.  

The property purchase — the only unusual item on the ballot — serves multiple purposes for the district: The part of the building that’s not currently in use by Hilltown Healthcare will be converted into business offices, allowing staff to move out of the bus garage where they currently work; and all the money will come from the district’s oversized unappropriated fund balance, bringing it down to legal levels. The fund balance was left inflated after the district underspent last year, and state law requires school districts to keep the fund balance under 4-percent of the annual budget.

The owner of Hilltown Healthcare, Jill Martin, a nurse practitioner, is currently building a new office down the road, but will be allowed to continue using 1772 Helderberg Trail for as long as she needs. Once she’s moved her clinic, the district will consider what other community-oriented services will fill that space.

Tedeschi told The Enterprise earlier this month that someone interested in running a day-care center there had approached the school board, and that the board had discussed the possibility of a dental clinic as well as a “desperately-needed” mental-health office. Miller said that she was interested in seeing a day-care or a tutoring center, but was curious to hear what residents feel they need. 

Dr. Gary Kolanchick, who owned the building for years and ran a clinic under a different name there, endorsed the purchase in a letter to the Enterprise editor last week, saying he was proud that “my former property will become part of the legacy of education for Berne-Knox-Westerlo and the community I served.”


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