BKW budget and school board incumbents pass vote with flying colors

HILLTOWNS — In an unprecedented election in terms of both process and turnout, Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District voters approved all items on the ballot this year, according to a district press release, sending two unchallenged school board incumbents back to their seats, passing the 2020-21 budget, and allowing the board to implement a standard bus replacement and complete a budget transfer.

The $23.4 million 2020-21 budget features nearly half-a-million in reduced expenses and a tax levy decrease of 1 percent in response to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, while maintaining programming. It was passed by a vote of 838 to 305, for a total of 1,143 votes — an increase from the 823 votes cast for or against the 2019-20 budget. 

That increase is likely due to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order that, in addition to pushing the vote from third Tuesday in May to June 16, required all voters to vote through the mail to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Voters could mail their ballots to the school or deposit them in one of two district drop-boxes. The executive order originally scheduled the vote for June 9, but delayed ballot mailings prompted another push.

Nathan Elble and Kimberly Lovell, who were unchallenged for their seats, earned 903 and 898 votes, respectively. Their three-year terms will begin July 1, 2020.

The bus-replacement schedule approved by voters, 797 to 344, will see three 72-passenger buses and two 28-passenger buses purchased for no more than a total of $489,000. Thirty percent of the cost will be covered by the Transportation Reserve Fund, and Superintendent Timothy Mundell said in May that the cost would be further covered by aid and money earned back from sold vehicles.

The final proposition, which passed 787 to 344, is authorization to transfer up to $90,000 from the District’s Unemployment Insurance Payment Reserve, which Mundell said in May was “overfunded” by about that sum, to a new Repair Reserve Fund.

More Hilltowns News

  • The town of Berne is being audited by the New York State Comptroller after Councilman Joel Willsey, the board’s lone Democrat, complained about the formulation of the town’s 2020 budget.

  • At its Sept. 10 regular meeting, the Knox Planning Board decided to wait until next month to weigh in on the Knox Town Board’s re-application to rezone approximately 80 acres of land at the intersection of routes 156 and 157 to a multi-use recreational district.

  • Vandalism was discovered in Westerlo’s town park this week, with graffiti artwork and crude phrases scrawled around the pavilion. 

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