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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 9, 2008

Budget-building begins

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — While the school year here, financed by an $84 million budget, has just begun, the process for constructing next year’s spending plan is already underway.

“The budget sometimes feels like a year-long process,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders told the school board Tuesday. “We do consume eight months.”

The budget-building process kicked off Tuesday with a session for the public to express its views and will conclude, after being scrutinized by a citizens’ committee, with a public vote on May 19.

Only three residents spoke at Tuesday’s forum. William Goergen told the board that energy would impact the budget. And, while he praised conservation efforts already underway, he wanted to be sure all the “low-hanging fruit” had been picked.

Baswa “Shaker” Shamshabad said “tough times” will reduce the revenue side of the budget as property values go down.

“Be prepared for a dramatic cut,” he urged, adding, “We can control expenses...We have to focus more on cutting costs.”

“I wish, I wish,” began Donald Csaposs, “something I wished for in years past is better community involvement on the front end of the process.”

He said the session at which he spoke was “no more than a glorified public-comment period” and the fact that only three people had shown up to comment meant it was perceived of as “fundamentally sketchy” and “limited.”

He urged the board to instead conduct two fall budget workshops, allowing “some depth before the administration steps away to start crunching the numbers.”

Csaposs concluded, “It’s never too late.”

Board President Richard Weisz summarized budget requests made through e-mail, including pleas for more computers, full-day kindergarten, no budget increase, a high-school late bus, and more support for the music program.

He also said that, when the superintendent, who is out this week returns, “We’ll talk about whether there is room for a workshop.”

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Corrected the tax roll for 2008, to adjust special franchise assessments for utility companies that had been miscalculated. “Thank goodness it’s only a $4,000 mistake,” said Weisz. Vice President John Dornbush noted the difference would be paid out of the district’s tax certiorari fund;

— Appointed Robert Baker as a citizen member of the school district’s audit committee. Weisz, who chairs the committee, apologized to the other qualified candidates who applied for the unpaid post. “We just didn’t have room,” said Weisz. The committee has three school board members and two citizens;

— Heard from board member Hy Dubowsky, who now chairs the business practices committee, that Sanders is looking at models for electronic accounts where, for example, students would use swipe cards to buy food. “The cafeteria might be a first place to start,” said Dubowsky.

— Learned that a document is now posted on the school district website on how to become a vendor for the district;

— Heard from board member Cathy Barber who chairs the policy committee that a letter was sent to school PTAs about the district’s wellness policy. Criticism had been raised about PTA fund-raisers where baked goods were sold;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton that the Guilderland Music Faculty and Friends will present a recital on Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school to raise funds for America’s Second Harvest, a domestic hunger—relief organization;

— Learned that Farnsworth Middle School won a quadricentennial mini-grant. Colleen Sittig and Alan Fiero, from Farnsworth, and Erin Kinal, of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, will write lessons linking the Pine Bush to the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the river that now bears his name;

— Heard that Julie Long, Farnsworth science teacher, will work with Sam Bowser of Wadsworth labs, a microbiologist now in the Antarctica. Bowser will send weekly updates to Long’s class so students can analyze the data, said Singleton. He will fly an FMS flag from the McMardo Station in Antarctica and will meet with the students on his return;

— Heard that Meryl Kremer, a Guilderland High School senior, had been cited as a winner in the 2008 National Council of Teachers of English Awards in writing. Of the 1,789 juniors nominated to participate, 525 were chosen as winners; Kremer was one of 37 winners statewide;

— Heard congratulations for the girls’ tennis and boys’ soccer teams, both undefeated;

— Met in executive session to discuss negotiations with District Office Administrative Personnel, the Supervisory Unit of the Guilderland Teachers’ Association, and the GTA’s Teaching Assistant Unit.

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