Rensselaer, Fort Edward school budgets defeated, Johnstown approved – Times Union

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 in Tuesday’s voting.

The Fort Edward budget also went down, while the Greater Johnstown budget was approved.

All three school districts 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 Rensselaer and Fort Edward budgets failed to pass the 50 percent mark, going down just as the first budget did in each district in June. Johnstown’s second attempt collected 65 percent of the vote to pass.

The Rensselaer budget was rejected 355-308.The referendum to lease two school buses also was defeated 372-289.

There are 120 absentee ballots at the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.  They will not make a difference in the outcome.

Voters defeated the original budget proposal of $27.7 million by 1,130-560.  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 more spending 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.  The mail ballot in June drew 1,690 voters.  The in-person turnout and absentee ballots totaled 783 or 46 percent of the number of voters in June.

“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.

Voters rejected the proposed Fort Edward budget of $11.64 million that carried a 14 percent increase, 318-309.  Superintendent Daniel Ward said the budget needed the super majority to be approved. He said the district would work on the contingency budget.

Greater Johnstown  voters approved a $38.9 million budget with a 5 percent tax levy increase for the 2020-21 school year, 1,382-731.

“We appreciate everyone who came out to vote today, as well as those who voted by absentee ballot,” said Interim Superintendent Karen Geelan. “We are truly grateful for the community’s support of our schools.”

The over $38.9 million budget for the 2020-21 school year calls for an increase in total spending of 2.92%. Much of the proposed spending increase is for student programs.

“Throughout this process, we have said that we can’t cut our way to excellence. This budget will allow the district to maintain and continue to improve programs for students,” said Geelan.

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