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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 21, 2009

At Berne-Knox-Westerlo: Harlow ousted by Anderson

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — The proposed $19.8-million budget for Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s 2009-10 school year, which spends less than last year and will not raise the tax levy, passed on the first vote Tuesday, while Carolyn Anderson beat out incumbent John Harlow for a seat on the school board.

The spending plan passed by a landslide, with 499 residents — 76 percent — voting in favor, and 161 in opposition. In the school-board race, Anderson garnered 386 votes, or 61 percent, while Harlow received 246.

A proposition to purchase three 65-passenger buses and two Chevrolet Suburbans for $368,000 also passed with 72-percent approval, 447 to 174. The vehicles will be purchased with funds from the district’s transportation reserve and bond anticipated notes.

“I feel very good about it, of course, with this being, I presume, my last budget vote as superintendent,” said Superintendent Steve Schrade of the budget passing on the first vote. This is the fourth year in a row of first-time approval for the retiring superintendent. “The results were much better than my first vote as superintendent, where only 31 percent of voters said ‘yes.’”

This time, 76 percent said “yes.”

“I guess that’s a good way to go out,” Schrade said.

The budget for next year will see a $556,479 decrease from the current $20.3-million budget.

Staff reductions account for part of those savings. More than $400,000 will be saved in salary and benefit costs due to the retirement of teachers Susan Bogdan-Ritty, Donald Dennis, William Sossei, and David McLaughlin, who will not be replaced.

Also, at a special meeting on Monday, the school board officially eliminated the positions of assistant superintendent, currently held by Kim LaBelle, and elementary librarian, currently held by Karen Canfield. Cutting the librarian’s post will save about $80,000 in salary and benefits, while cutting the assistant superintendent’s post will save about $120,000 in salary and benefits, Schrade said last week. [For further coverage of Monday night’s special meeting, go to www.altamontenterprise.com, under archives for May 21, 2009.]

Starting this summer, the district’s summer school program will also be eliminated, saving the district close to $70,000. The freshman boys’ basketball team will also be cut, along with the Arts and Education program, which brought artists and authors to BKW to hold workshops with students.

State aid that the governor had threatened to cut — $705,643 — was restored by the federal stimulus package. About $8.5 million of BKW’s revenue will come from state aid, and about $10 million will come from property taxes.

About $2.7 million of next year’s budget will go toward educating the district’s special education students, who make up about one-fifth of the students at BKW.

By bringing 10 special education students, normally bused out of the district, back into district classrooms, BKW will save an estimated $64,000. The district will establish two new special education programs, one in the high school, and one in the middle school, and will hire a new special education teacher and social worker.

[For further coverage of the 2009-10 budget, go to www.altamontenterprise.com, under archives for April 16, 2009.]

Schrade said yesterday that he was not surprised that the budget passed on the first vote.

“My feeling has always been that, absent some other huge concern, people will support the budget if the tax increase is either low or non-existent,” he said. “I think it passed because, in these troubled economic times, we were able to show that we were aware of people’s financial difficulties, and were able to trim the budget, spend less next year than this year, and keep our tax increase proposal at zero.”

Business Administrator Timothy Holmes was not surprised by the budget’s passing either.

“I think people feel positive when they see that their taxes are not going up,” Holmes said. “I’m very happy with the results. I think it shows how much the community supports our school.”

The entire 2009-10 budget can be viewed at www.bkwcsd.k12.ny.us/Budget/Budget0910.htm.

School board

Carolyn Anderson had not planned on running for school board this year. But, in early April, she was asked to run when her friend and fellow Berne Library board member Mary Jane Araldi withdrew from the race.

Anderson is now retired from a career in management of employee benefits, and has two grandsons attending BKW, one of who is classified as a special education student.

Prior to campaigning for the school board, Anderson served on the district’s budget advisory committee, providing counsel on the 2009-10 budget.

After the results were announced Tuesday night in the BKW High School auditorium, Anderson was “truly excited,” she said.

“I am very excited about working with the Board of Education and the Administration, as I admire and respect each one,” Anderson said yesterday. “I have much to learn, and know that they will all favorably contribute to our smooth transition.”

Though he lost in Tuesday’s election, Harlow said yesterday that he has not ruled out the possibility of running again.

“As my Mama always told me, ‘Never say never,’” he said.

Harlow, a retired mechanical engineer who got his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri, has served on the school board since 2000, though he left the board for the 2005-06 school year. He reclaimed his seat on the board in 2006, for a three-year term that expires on June 30, at which point Anderson will take his place.

“My intent is to take the freed up time that I have now and apply it to more teaching of science,” Harlow said. “And, I’ve had a really enjoyable time working with [Carol] Willsey in her class building windmills, and I hope I have similar opportunities in the future.”

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