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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 18, 2005
Federal grant to help Karner blue
Purcell at helm of Community Caregivers
District adds $220K to tax levy
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND The school board Tuesday night added $200,000 to the districts tax levy but Guilderland residents will still have a lower tax rate than projected when they passed the $76 million school budget in May.
By unanimous vote, the board followed the districts recommendation to add $100,000 to make up for a reduction in state aid on the renovation of Farnsworth Middle School and another $100,000 to set up a reserve fund for tax certiorari cases.
The State Education Department discovered an error in its calculations, Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders said, and so cut aid on the $20 million renovation and expansion project at the middle school. The project, slated for completion this fall, added 18 new classrooms for a fourth house and renovated much of the 30-year-old school.
The town of Guilderland reassessed properties this year, for the first time in five years, reflecting soaring values.
"With the reassessment, the growth was higher than expected," said Superintendent Gregory Aidala.
The taxable valuation of Guilderland properties in the school district now totals $2.6 billion.
So, even with the $200,000 added to the levy, the tax rate for Guilderland residents will be $18.35 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The estimated tax rate at the time of the budget vote had been $18.55.
The average home in Guilderland is now assessed at $180,000, Sanders said. At the time of the May budget vote, the projected taxes for an $180,000 home were $3,338.
With the increased tax levy to $52,279,229 a Guilderland resident with an $180,000 home will pay $3,303.
"So in every case, they would pay less than we projected," said Sanders.
He also pointed out that the public votes on expenditures in a budget, which will remain the same, not on the tax levy, which the board has the power to increase.
The Guilderland School District extends to small parts of three other towns besides Guilderland Bethlehem, New Scotland, and Knox.
Those towns have not recently revalued property. So, while Guilderland now has a state-set equalization rate of 100 percent, Bethlehems is at 68 percent, New Scotlands is at 74 percent, and Knoxs is at 75 percent.
At the time of the May budget vote, the district had predicted tax rates per $1,000 of assessed valuation for Bethlehem of $27.15, for New Scotland of $24.43, and for Knox of $25.72.
With the $200,000 added to the levy, the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation for Bethlehem will be $26.82, for New Scotland will be $24.97, and for Knox will be $24.47.
Sanders said that 26 property owners have filed in State Supreme Court for 80 parcels; additionally, 100 property owners have filed in small claims court.
A fund of $100,000 for tax certiorari claims will be set up at a future meeting, said Aidala.
If the reserve is not used for four years, it will be returned to the general fund.
The district has in the past made payments because of claims that have been filed, said Aidala, but this year the number of claims is "significantly higher," he said. "Our exposure is in the range of a half-million dollars, but that in no way indicates we’ll be on the hook for a half-million dollars."
Board Vice President Linda Bakst noted that, during the decade of legal skirmishes with Pyramid Cos. over the assessed value of Crossgates Mall, the school district never set up a reserve fund. The matter was settled out of court this year.
Board member Thomas Nachod said that the board had felt so secure in its position that a reserve fund wasnt needed.
"It may not have been a prudent decision, but it turned out to be lucky," said Nachod. "With revaluation, we know we’re going to get hit with something."
Board member Barbara Fraterrigo added, "We were talking about $9 million." If the district had lost to Pyramid Cos., she said, it would have had to put up a bond issue.
At its Aug. 16 meeting, the board voted unanimously, 7 to 0, on every motion made. The boards two newest members, Catherine Barber and Peter Golden, were absent.
Heard from Sanders that tax rates for the Guilderland Public Library for 2005-06 have been set at 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for Guilderland residents a penny less than predicted in May when voters passed the librarys $2.4 million budget. This represents a 23-percent decrease over the 2004-05 rate of $1.04.
The library, which is governed by its own elected board of trustees, follows the school district boundaries. The tax rates for the other towns, per $1,000 of assessed valuation, are: $1.17 for Bethlehem, $1.09 for New Scotland, and $1.07 for Knox;
Heard a range of suggestions from resident Timothy Burke that energy savings be used to make changes for "real savings down the road"; that, in recommending changes in state legislation for teachers’ pensions, the district remembers "we have a responsibility to our teachers to take care of them"; and that there be better record-keeping by and supervision of social workers and psychologists in the schools;
Heard praise from Aidala for Ellen Klein, "a loyal employee" who will be missed. Klein is retiring after working 31 years for the district, 25 of them in the office at Westmere Elementary School;
Learned that, with the resignation of Beth Bini, who will become an assistant principal elsewhere, the second-grade slot she is vacating at Altamont Elementary School may not be filled.
Although a third section was originally scheduled, Aidala said, the 21 students per section is just one student more than the 19 or 20 throughout the district;
Agreed to hire an athletic trainer from Top Form, Inc. of Rensselaer for the 2005-06 school year, for a base amount of $21,500, the lowest of three bids. The company’s references were "very favorable," said Sanders.
The state-certified trainer helps care for and condition athletes and works to prevent injuries, evaluating them when they occur.
In the past, Guilderland had used a staff person who taught part-time; that person has now been given a full-time teaching post, Sanders said.
Aidala said that a trainer who works from afternoon practices through evening games may work out better than a staff member who had morning teaching duties with "no relief."
Two candidates from Top Form will be interviewed by the district to see if their philosophies match, Sanders said.
Bakst said shed like the board to discuss later the protocol that is followed when a student athlete is injured, the adequacy of training, and the resources available on site.
She asked, "Who is responsible to respond when there is an injury...The coach" This person"";
Approved a resolution calling for the formation of a task force to "develop mechanisms and strategies to fund the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) while at the same time protecting school district budgets from major fluctuations in the rate of employer contributions."
Guilderlands contribution to the TRS went up 48 percent or $862,500 for the 2005-06 school year.
Board member Richard Weisz first proposed the idea. The resolution will be presented to the New York State School Boards Association at its annual convention, held this year on Oct. 29 in Rochester;
Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress that nearly 700 teachers from Guilderland and area schools attended Guilderland's Annual Reading and Writing Institutes this summer.
Also, on Aug. 12, James Stronge from the College of William and Mary offered a workshop for nearly 40 teachers, supervisors, and administrators on teacher evaluation. Guilderlands new teacher system is based on Stronges research and his book, Qualities of Effective Teachers; and
Heard from Aidala that 31 new teachers are slated to begin work this fall at Guilderland seven at the elementary level; 17 at the middle school; and seven at the high school.
He said that 18 are first-year teachers and 13 have had an average of six years experience at other districts.
Six of the new teachers have just bachelor's degrees, he said; six more are working on masters degrees; and 19 have already earned their masters degrees. A dozen completed their schooling in the Capital Region, he said, while 19 went to schools out of the area, including Oregon, Notre Dame, Mount Holyoke, and Cornell.
"It’s going to be a great year," the superintendent concluded.
Plans for a new eatery on track"