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School taxes lowered for Albany homeowners in 2011

School taxes were lowered for Albany homeowners following efforts from the city and school district to ease the tax burden on residents in these difficult economic times.

 

The City School District of Albany Board of Education voted Aug. 18 to approve a 2011 tax rate that is 0.65 percent lower than last year for homeowners. For homeowners with the Basic STAR exemption, the rate will decrease 1.32 percent and with Enhanced STAR for seniors the rate will go down 2.45 percent.

 

Follow this link to look up your 2011 school taxes.

 

Board President Daniel Egan praised the teamwork that contributed to the reduced school tax rate on the part of the board, the city and Mayor Gerald D. Jennings, and the district’s teachers. The Albany Public School Teachers’ Association voted in May to approve a new five-year contract that includes a pay freeze for the 2011-12 school year. The district's administrators worked under a pay freeze during the 2010-11 school year, and Superintendent Raymond Colucciello, Ed.D., has agreed to a 2011-12 contract that freezes his salary for the third consecutive year with no benefits from the district.

 

"This was a team effort on our community's behalf,” Egan said. Visit the District News section for more information about the 2011 school tax rate.

 

In May, voters approved the City School District of Albany's 2011-12 budget in spite of a relentless attack on the district that the Times Union reports was led by a charter-school group.

 

Voters approved the $206.5 million budget, which included a zero tax-levy increase, by a 173-vote margin (3,555 to 3,382) following a weeks-long disinformation campaign using postcards and "phone surveys" that failed to identify the organization funding them. The Times Union reported that the charter-school group School Performance Inc. was responsible for the tactics.

 

Follow this link to download the 2011-12 budget in .pdf format.

 

Voters also provided overwhelming approval for all three of the district's other budget propositions:

  • Proposition #2 -- Asks voters to authorize the district to sell the building at 270-272 Central Ave., home to the district's Buildings and Grounds staff, for at least $100,000. The staff and all equipment are relocating to the former Harriet Gibbons High School (now Central Registration) at 75 Watervliet Ave.

    • Approved -- 4,694 to 1,068

  • Proposition #3 -- Asks voters to authorize the district to sell the former Philip Livingston Magnet Academy for at least $3.25 million. Voters last year overwhelmingly approved a proposition authorizing the district to sell the property for at least $4.5 million. However, due to market conditions it is necessary to lower the minimum selling price.

    • Approved -- 5,673 to 1,017

  • Proposition #4 -- Asks voters to approve an $11.4 million facilities project for three schools. The entire project will be done at no cost to taxpayers. The project would expand the cafeteria at Giffen Memorial Elementary School, fix the roof, windows, and heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and electrical systems at AbrookinVocational-Technical Center, and add a nine-classroom addition and other improvements at Albany High School. The entire project would be paid for by regular and EXCEL building aid from the state.

    • Approved -- 4,002 to 2,644

The district was able to send a zero tax-levy increase to voters after the teachers' union agreed May 2 on a landmark five-year contract that also will avoid teacher layoffs and provide more time for students.

 

District and Albany Public School Teachers' Association leaders hailed the agreement as a major collaborative effort that puts students first and recognizes the financial pressures facing the school district and the city.

 

The contract includes a pay freeze and no teacher layoffs for 2011-12. It also includese two more days of instruction for students, and three more work days for teachers to pursue a variety of professional development activitie.

 

The budget proposal originally included a 1.7 percent tax-levy increase when the board approved it unanimously April 12. However, the contract agreeement with the teachers saved about $2 million for 2011-12, allowing the district to completely erase the proposed tax-levy increase. Negotiations continue with the district's two additional unions, representing administrators and non-instructional staff, for additional savings in 2011-12. All of the district's administrators accepted a voluntary pay freeze for the current school year.

 

The budget eliminates 37.5 positions -- four administrators and 33.5 non-instructional staff. The original proposal included the elimination of 52.5 teaching positions, all of which will be retained following the contract agreement.

 

In developing the budget proposal for 2011-12, the district also used $9.3 million from its fund balance -- 60 percent of the available funds -- to help offset a deficit of more than $10 million. The $6.1 million remaining in the fund balance represents about three weeks of the district's payroll and is below the 4 percent threshold allowed by the state.

 

"Many of the decisions we had to make throughout this process were extremely hard, but we recognize the critical need to develop a budget proposal that supports our students and recognizes our financial reality," Egan said.

 

The 2011-12 budget will support the vast majority of high-quality programs and services the district currently provides, such as full-day prekindergarten, Academic Intervention Services, the International Baccalaureate program and a menu of Advanced Placement courses that is unsurpassed among Capital Region high schools. Programmatic reductions include starting foreign language in seventh grade instead of sixth and the elimination of electives at Albany High School that have low enrollment.

 

"This is a budget proposal that our students need and deserve, and that also takes into account our entire community in these difficult economic times," Dr. Colucciello said.

 

The district's 2010-11 budget of $202.8 million represented reductions of nearly $4 million -- and 213 jobs -- over the past two years in the face of the state and nation’s economic crisis, and increasing financial pressure from the city's taxpayer-supported charter schools.

 

This year, in addition to continued cuts in state aid, state lawmakers also have allowed the city's 11 charter schools to receive a 20 percent increase in per-pupil funding. Gov. Cuomo has proposed keeping that $5 million increase in place for charters in 2011-12, accounting for about half of the deficit the district faced before arriving at the final budget proposal for city residents to consider.

 

You can follow the development of the 2011-12 budget through board presentations at the Feb. 3, March 3 and March 17 meetings. The final presentation at the April 12 meeting was revised slightly before the board voted 7-0 to approve it. The board reinstated one elementary home-school coordinator position that had been proposed for elimination at Pine Hills Elementary School, and added a half-time attendance verification position. The person in that position would review and verify the addresses of students in charter schools to be sure that the district is reimbursing each of the 11 taxpayer-supported charter schools properly.

 

Charter schools continue to absorb one of the largest segments of the district's annual expenses.

 

In 1999, city taxpayers supported 17 district schools for about 10,500 students. Today, with 11 charter schools operating in the city alongside 15 district schools, taxpayers support 26 schools for the same student population.

 

The 2011-12 budget proposal anticipates sending about $34 million to charter schools. That represents 16.4 percent of the total budget proposal and 31 percent of the proposed $108.9 million tax levy.

 

During the current year, the district will pay about $31 million to charter schools, or about 15.3 percent of the total budget. That includes the $5 million mid-year windfall the charters received when the state unintentionally repealed a freeze on charter-school tuition for the current school year. Payments to charters this year will add up to 29 percent of the district's $107 million tax levy for 2010-11. 

 

The district continues to work with state lawmakers to reinstate the charter tuition freeze. Sen. Neil Breslin and Assemblyman Jack McEneny propsed legislation in February that would restore the freeze in Albany (S2007/A4975).

 

Also new in the budget-development process this year, the district formed a new Community-based Budget Committee this year and held two meetings in January to provide information about the district's budget process.

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