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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 31, 2011

Board chooses middle-of-the-road for bus prop

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school board, in a split vote, chose the middle of three options for bus purchases next year.

When voters go to the polls on May 17, they will decide on the bus proposition separately from the 2011-12 budget.

In a 7-to-1 vote on March 22, the board decided on a bond proposition that, if it passes, will be reimbursed 60 percent by state aid.

Earlier this month, Christine Sagendorf, the district’s transportation supervisor, had presented the board with three options, ranging from just under half-a-million dollars to just over a million dollars:

— For $1,131,400, replace eight 66-passenger buses at $112,700 or $114,300 each; three 30-passenger buses at $53,700 each; and one wheelchair bus at $65,500;

—     For $793,300, replace five 66-passenger buses, three 30-passenger buses, and one wheelchair bus; or

—     For $453,600, replace two 66-passenger buses, three 30-passenger buses, and one wheelchair bus.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders told the board at last Tuesday’s meeting that, with the state contract for 30-passenger buses and the wheelchair bus, the district would save $15,000 over the initial estimate for the middle option — setting the cost at $778,100.

Allan Simpson cast the dissenting vote, citing the district’s declining enrollment. With 115 buses, he said Guilderland has the third largest fleet in the area and too many spare buses at 29.

“We’re throwing good money after bad,” said Simpson. He also said, “We can find ways to reduce our fleet…Our back is against the wall.”

Board to share views on budget

The board is considering an $89 million budget that would raise taxes about 4 percent and cut 44 jobs. The budget was proposed by Superintendent Marie Wiles after a series of community forums where the public and school staff considered lists of possible cuts.

Wiles’s proposal for next year was based on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget, which included drastic cuts in school aid. Recent board sessions have featured students and parents decrying the cuts and pleading for re-instatement of various programs.

Cuomo and the legislative leaders announced on Sunday they had agreed on a plan that will restore $232 million to education, although specifics had not been released by Wednesday afternoon.

On Monday afternoon, Wiles said, “We haven’t been given any inkling on how the money will be divided….God knows what they’re doing.”

Asked what method would be used to decide which programs should be re-instated, Wiles said, “That will all come together next Tuesday night, April 5.” The school board members will meet from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the high school to discuss their views on the budget; the last half-hour of the meeting will be for public comment.

 “We really haven’t discussed what, as a group, we are prepared to support or not support,” said board President Richard Weisz at Tuesday’s meeting.

 The board is slated to adopt a final plan on April 12.

Guilderland school district administrators this week are “pinning down variables,” said Wiles on Monday. The health premium increase, which is based on experience, she said is “looking pretty good.”

Also, the district is hearing back on concessions from its 12 bargaining groups. Concessions, Wiles said, were asked for both from the units that are currently negotiating contracts and from those that aren’t.

Other business

In other business at its March 22 meeting, the school board:

— Heard from Wiles that school will be in session on Friday, May 27, as the district has used all of its snow days;

— Heard congratulations from Weisz for the 27 staff members who were approved for tenure. Calling it an “exhaustive review,” Weisz said, “Not everybody makes it.” He said there would be more celebration later on;

— Heard congratulations from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton for the MasterMinds’ team, which placed first in the History Bowl’s Upstate New York Regional competition, qualifying for April’s National History bowl in Washington, D.C. Noah Rubin competed in the National History Bee regional competition, coming in first against 30 students;

— Learned that Corey Plant, a third-grader at Westmere Elementary School won an American Legion essay contest writing on “What America Means to Me.” He won a $100 savings bond.

“America gives us freedom…,” he wrote. “I love saying the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s my favorite part of the school day”;

— Agreed to an externship program with Utica College for clinical education for occupational-therapy students. Sanders said Utica students “job shadow” at Guilderland Elementary School;

— Awarded a bid for a tractor-trailer load of paper to the lowest of six bidders, RIS Paper Company, Inc., for $21,142.80;

— Nominated incumbent John Phelan to serve a three-year term on the Albany-Schoharie-Schenectady-Saratoga Board of cooperative Educational Services Board as an Albany County representative. A Guilderland resident, Phelan is a former school-board member;

— Heard from Colleen O’Connell on the board’s policy committee, that the district would now have Facebook and Twitter accounts; people can sign up through the district’s website at www.guilderlandschools.org.

“Guilderland Central has officially come into this century,” said O’Connell, stating it was the last school district in the area if not the state to use social networking; and

— Met in executive session to discuss negotiations with Building Principals and the Administrator for Special Programs and with District Office Confidential Personnel.

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