For second time, Rensselaer, Fort Edward school budgets defeated

RENSSELAER – The Rensselaer City School District will operate on a contingency budget for the 2020-21 school year after voters rejected a proposed $27.1 million budget that carried a 9 percent tax increase, according to preliminary results released Tuesday night.

The district needed a super majority of 60 percent of the voters to back the budget in order to override the state cap on the property tax levy.  The budget failed to pass the 50 percent mark, going down just as the first budget did in June.

The vote was 355 to 308 against the budget. The referendum to lease two school buses also was defeated 372 to 289.

There are 120 absentee ballots at the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.  They will not make a difference in the outcome of the vote.  The district Board of Education meets Wednesday to adopt the election results.

Voters defeated the original budget proposal of $27,705,833 by 1,130 to 560.  That budget would have increased the property tax levy by 19.5 percent.  District officials have said they need to correct revenue shortfalls that are a problem that will become worse if not dealt with this year.

The contingency budget will keep the current tax rate.  The district will have to draw upon its financial reserves or make additional budget cuts.

“We would like to thank the community for the strong involvement in the budget process,” Superintendent Joseph Kardash said immediately after the vote.

The district conducted in person voting Tuesday at the school campus. Voters lined up outside the building to cast ballots in a safe manner dictated by social distancing requirements of the coronavirus pandemic.  The June vote was conducted by absentee ballot due to the pandemic.

“All of the election officials would also like to express gratitude to the voters for respecting social distancing and wearing masks. We all value safety,” Kardash said.

Rensselaer was not alone in holding a budget revote Tuesday night.  The Fort Edward Central School District and the Greater Johnstown School District each went back to the voters a second time with spending requests that also needed at least a 60 percent majority.

Voters rejected the proposed Fort Edward Budget of $11.64 million that carried a 14.03 percent increase by a vote of 318 against and 309 in favor.  Superintendent Daniel Ward said the budget needed the super majority to be approved. He said the district would work on the contingency budget.

Results for the Johnstown vote on a $38.97 million school budget with a 5 percent tax increase were not immediately available Tuesday night.

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