Voters approve budget, bus purchase; elect four to board of education

Duanesburg voters approved a $17,885,000 budget by a vote of 217-65, a margin of 77%.

The spending plan will enhance academic programs and supports the district’s strategic plan with a 1.82% year-to-year spending increase and a property tax levy of 1.95%, which is below the district’s state-calculated limit, or “cap.” The budget also continues athletic programs and accelerates the district’s educational technology plans with more devices for students and enhanced equipment in classrooms.

“This honors the district’s responsibility to the community to use its resources as effectively and efficiently as possible while also focusing on academic excellence,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Niedermeier. “We are grateful for the community’s support for this spending plan, which allows the district to continue to create an academic program that positions all students to be successful and productive members of society, whatever their chosen path may be.”

Residents also approved by a vote of 207-75 a school bus referendum to purchase two 30-passenger buses and one 71-passenger bus at a cost not to exceed $242,000 total. The measure allows the district to replace aging buses and minimize maintenance costs.

District voters also elected four members to the Board of Education. As the top three vote-getters, Melissa Peterson (205 votes), Francis Spor (202 votes) and Teresa Wood-Irvin (194 votes) will each serve a three-year term beginning July 1. Shayne Mitchell (193 votes) will serve until June 30, 2023, to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of board member Camille Siano Enders.

Key Budget Points

  • DCS will continue all existing student programs and support services in the 2021-22 budget.
  • The year-to-year spending increase amounts to $320,000, or 1.82%. Further spending increases were reduced through operational efficiencies and an administrative reorganization.
  • The district is balancing the budget through a combination of fund balance, state aid and property taxes. The proposed budget includes a tax levy change of 1.95%. This is below the tax cap of 4.45%.
  • Federal stimulus money is not included in the 2021-22 spending plan. Stimulus funds will not be used for ongoing costs. 

Academic Excellence

The budget prioritizes rigorous academic programs and supports for students’ mental health and social/emotional learning. 

DCS will accelerate its educational technology plans with more Chromebooks for students. Classrooms will be enhanced with equipment that expands distance learning capabilities and makes it easier for students to see and hear their livestreamed and in-person lessons. 

The budget also expands student opportunities in the arts with the addition of a music teacher. All extracurricular and athletics programs will continue. 

The plan also includes professional development opportunities to support faculty and staff.

Total Expenses

Spending in the budget totals $17.885 million. It is a 1.82% year-to-year spending increase. 

Based on state aid projections, available revenue for next year will not cover the growth in expenses. In order to close its budget gap, the district will take a balanced approach of increasing the tax levy, using fund balance and reducing spending through operational efficiencies. 

The district has eliminated the position of director of curriculum and instruction and athletics and will replace it with two positions. First, an assistant principal/coordinator of middle school programming will assist the district in achieving its strategic goals related to middle school achievement. Second, athletic director duties will be taken over by a teacher with a stipend. This change will be a significant savings to the district and will not have an impact on the district’s sports offerings. The athletics program will continue as normal in 2021-22. 

DCS will further achieve savings by reorganizing its transportation procedures while enhancing health and safety on school buses.

The district will also contract with BOCES for some shared services in the human resources department. This will make the district eligible to receive state aid for these shared services.

Fund Balance

DCS will use $884,869 in reserves and fund balance to help balance the budget. Fund balance can be thought of as a savings account. In the case of school districts, it can be used to help with unanticipated expenses or to help manage the tax levy through a planned, long-term approach. 

Tax Levy

The budget includes a 1.95% tax levy increase. This is below the district’s tax cap of 4.45%. Because the proposed tax levy increase is under the cap, budget approval required a simple majority vote for approval. The tax cap law only applies to the tax levy (the amount of taxes collected by the district), not to tax rates or individual tax bills.