[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 13, 2010

“New territory”
GCSD prepares to borrow if $5M in state aid is delayed

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Preparing for the worst, the school board on Tuesday authorized the issuance of Tax Anticipation Notes or Revenue Anticipation Notes in case state aid payments are delayed further.

On March 30, the governor abruptly announced a delay in school aid payments, which totaled $3.1 million for Guilderland. The district is scheduled to receive another $2.5 million in June.

Guilderland has an $85 million budget this year and was supposed to get a total of about $21 million in state aid.

School board President Richard Weisz said on Tuesday that there are “hints” the June payment may be delayed as well. “Five million dollars is now in doubt,” he said.

“If that occurs, we’ll need to borrow money,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders.

“If not for our reserves, we would have to borrow to make payroll,” said Weisz. In his decade on the board, he said, “We have never had to do this.”

“This is new territory,” agreed Superintendent John McGuire, stating that 39 percent of the state’s school districts have had to borrow already in order to meet their obligations as the state aid is delayed.

Board member Denise Eisele asked, “Could the governor potentially say, ‘Oh well, you’re not going to get that at all?’”

“Yes,” replied Weisz, adding that the New York State School Boards’ Association has started a lawsuit to get the governor to pay.

“The only way our State can put its long-term fiscal house in order is through significant, recurring spending reductions,” Governor David Paterson said in March when he announced the delay. “In the short-term, however, plummeting revenues and record deficits have once again forced me to take extraordinary cash-management actions in order to ensure the continued orderly operation of our government.”

Because of severe cash-flow problems at the close of the fiscal year, which is March 31, Paterson said then, $2.1 billion in school aid would not be paid to districts as scheduled.

“The state intends to meet the June 1 statutory deadline for making this payment,” the governor said in March, adding, “assuming sufficient cash is available at that time.”

In December, Paterson ordered $750 million in school and local government payments be withheld. The money was paid in January, but not before the New York State United Teachers, the New York State School Boards Association, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, and the School Administrators Association of New York State sued. They claimed that the governor, in withholding funds allocated by the State Legislature, acted unconstitutionally and illegally.

“As the governor says, you can’t spend what you don’t have,” Matt Anderson, spokesman for the state’s division of the Budget, told The Enterprise at the time.

Sanders said on Tuesday that Guilderland has enough funds on hand to “go a little bit into June” without borrowing, but he wants to be prepared if the state payment doesn’t come through.

“We’ll have everything in place,” he said.

The board approved the authorization unanimously.

The nine members then went on to authorize the issuance of Tax Anticipation Notes not to exceed $5 million to tide the district over during the summer until the tax revenues come in. Unlike the first, unprecedented authorization, this is one the board routinely makes every year.

May 18 elections

At the same meeting, Sanders gave an overview of the $87.4 million budget up for vote on May 18.

In addition to the budget, school district residents will also vote on a $998,400 bus and equipment proposition. And they will elect four school board candidates from a field of six. The top three vote-getters will serve three-year terms and the fourth will serve a one-year term.

Incumbents Barbara Fraterrigo, Colleen O’Connell, Gloria Towle-Hilt, and Emilio Genzano are being challenged by Elijah Sharma and Allan Simpson.

Tuesday night, after the meeting, Maceo Dubose, president of the Guilderland Teachers’ Association, told The Enterprise that the union, which has about 500 members, is supporting the four incumbents, all of whom have accepted the endorsement, he said.

Candidates did not fill out surveys seeking support, as in previous years, Dubose said, and no money is being offered.

“It’s based on what we’ve seen of their support for the educational programs and of the students,” he said, “and it’s based on the way they’ve crafted the budget.”

Towards the end of the meeting, Weisz said there is “misinformation” circulating about the budget. The district, he said, has been scaling back over the last four years.

If the budget were voted down on May 18, Weisz said, moving directly to a contingency budget would be “draconian.” Sanders said earlier that a contingency budget, with a state-set cap, would mean cutting another $1.8 million.

The board hasn’t begun to discuss what would happen if the budget were defeated, Weisz said.

He also said that he wanted to correct a misconception that Guilderland staff, in making $220,000 of concessions, hadn’t done enough. According to the New York State School Boards’ Association, Weisz said, about half of the state’s school districts had asked for concessions and about 23 percent came up with give-backs.

“We ought to be grateful the staff agreed to the cuts they did,” he said.

Board member Colleen O’Connell agreed, and added that the $220,000 in concessions is contingent on the passage of the budget.

“It’s very important to check out assumptions that you have or are hearing,” said board member Gloria Towle-Hilt. “Pick up the phone to call or e-mail…It’s extremely important to get the right information.”

The board has also scheduled sessions where residents can talk directly to board members in a casual setting; locations and times are listed elsewhere in this edition of The Enterprise.

Funding sports

On April 27, a crowd of about 250 sports boosters and athletes packed the school board’s meeting hall to protest a $73,000 cut to sports that took all the freshmen teams but basketball, and took the repeat sports — fall cheerleading and winter track. The board on April 27 stuck with its original budget proposal but agreed to work with athletics boosters to raise money from donations so all the sports could be offered next year.

Some board members and administrators met with sports boosters on Tuesday, May 4, and Weisz said he “was impressed with the level of discourse.”

It was pointed out, he said, that, if 600 people put up $100 each, the need would be met. “I like to think the community will rise to that challenge,” Weisz said.

He praised the “we’re all in this together” tenor of the discussion.

Board member Emilio Genzano said a committee with representatives from each booster club has been set up and is targeting July for a major fund-raiser. He said Guilderland’s chamber of commerce is also involved.

Kathy Burbank, the chamber’s director, told The Enterprise yesterday that her goal is to coordinate the fund-raising into some major events.

“As soon as the cut was made,” she said, “I started getting phone calls from booster clubs and youth sports and individual students. I e-mailed John McGuire to see about ways to consolidate fund-raising so my businesses aren’t getting killed.”

With the economic recession, Burbank said, many organizations are hurting. “Businesses get people all day long, one after the other, asking for things,” she said. “The booster clubs are just the tip of the iceberg.”

An event, Take Back the Night, already scheduled for Aug. 4 in Tawasentha Park, she said, would be a good place for the booster clubs to have booths since the event is geared towards youth and their families.

Other business

In other business at recent meetings, the board:

—         Briefly discussed board member Julie Cuneo’s resignation, deciding to consult legal counsel on whether this board or the one installed in July, after the elections, would make the decision on how to fill the vacant seat.

Cuneo, in her first year of a three-year term, is moving on July 1 to Saratoga for family reasons. (For the full story, go online to www.altamontenterrprise.com and look under Guilderland archives for May 6, 2010.)

“I’d like to thank everybody here and in the community that put me here,” said Cuneo. “I’m really sorry I can’t finish my term.

“We will miss you,” said Weisz;

—         Nominated three candidates to serve on the Board of Cooperative Educational Services board for a three-year term — Robert Domenici, Kevin Kutzscher, and Rose Surman.

The board also voted to authorize the BOCES of Albany, Schoharie, Schenectady, and Saratoga counties to expend $7.1 million next year as set forth in the administrative budget;

—         Watched a documentary on the impact of plastics on the environment, produced by Michelle Kang, an eighth-grader at Farnsworth Middle School who won first place in New York State History Day.

Elena Musteata came in second in the New York State History Day competition for her website on the history of NASA. Sixth-grader Sean Quinn had one of the top six projects in the state with his documentary on the history of the interstate highway system.

Cody Ingraham and Andrew Fedorov both competed in the individual performance category, and high school student Zubin Mukerjee competed in the historical paper category;

— Learned that Guilderland elementary students Max Baronit, Zoe Haggard, Kyle Katlan, Drhruv Khurana, Skylar Marotta, Taniya Thomas, and Mike Wine worked all year on environmental issues, including recycling and conserving energy;

— Agreed to use Bell’s Auto Driving School, of Clifton Park, for behind-the-wheel services for the drivers’ education program at the high school this summer at a cost of $312 per student, and appointed Roderick MacDonald as the in-class instructor at $53.70 per hour. Each student pays $380 to take the course, which is oversubscribed, Sanders said.

“This is not a profit-making venture,” he said. “We match revenues with expenses”;

— Accepted a humidifier and two filters from Lori Hershenhart, the district’s music supervisor, for use in the orchestra room at the middle school;

— Approved a new club at the high school for Ultimate Frisbee. McGuire said there would be “no budgetary impact in the first year,” and added, “It’s healthy.”

Describing her husband’s playing the sport with neighborhood teens, O’Connell said, “I suggest those who are a little rusty practice in private. It’s not pretty”;

— Approved policies on detention, and school visitors with changes to reflect the cut in monitors at the elementary schools; and

— Met in executive session to discuss the search for a new superintendent and a personnel issue.

[Return to Home Page]