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Voters overwhelmingly approve 2012-13 budget proposal, plans to sell buildings

Nearly 70 percent say yes to $207.7 million budget

Voters gave overwhelming support to the City School District of Albany's 2012-13 budget proposal May 15, with nearly 70 percent saying yes to the plan, which maintains academic, extracurricular and social-emotional programs for all of the district's 8,700 students. The approval rate was the highest since 71 percent said yes in Albany's first school budget vote in 1997.

 

The $207.7 million budget, which carries a 1.5 percent tax-levy increase, passed 2,892-1,318. Proposals to sell the former Schuyler Elementary School/Albany High School and the former Sunshine Building also passed by even wider margins.

 

"We drafted a budget that provides for all of our students with the resources we have while also taking into account what our community can afford in these difficult economic times," said Board of Education President Daniel Egan. "We are grateful to our community for the strong show of support for our city's public schools. We are looking forward to our work over the next year and beyond to raise achievement for all of our students."

 

The budget is an increase of less than 1 percent over the current year -- six-tenths of a percent, or $1.2 million. It will eliminate 73.4 positions -- 38.4 regular or contractual positions, and 35 substitute positions. These cuts will bring to about 325 the number of positions the district has eliminated over the past four years in the face of steep cuts in state aid to public schools during the country's fiscal downturn.

 

Click here to download the district's 2012-13 budget, which the board adopted April 3 and voters approved May 15.

 

The district will receive more than $400,000 less in state aid in 2012-13 compared to the current year, and nearly $10.5 million less than it received for the 2008-09 school year. The budget proposal also included payments of more than $35 million to Albany's 11 taxpayer-supported, privately operated charter schools in 2012-13. However, the late-April announcement that Albany Prepartory Charter School (grades 5-8) will close June 15 and the related unplanned relocation of Achievement Academy Charter School (grades 5-8) could reduce that figure slightly.

 

Propositions to sell two district buildings

In addition to supporting the 2012-13 budget, voters also approved the sale of two more district buildings:

  • Proposition #2 asked the public to authorize the sale of the former Sunshine Building in Lincoln Park for not less than $125,000 (pending voter approval, the board voted at its May 3 meeting to sell the building to the Boys and Girls Club of Albany for $155,000). The measure passed 3,612-510 (88 percent approval).

  • Proposition #3 asked the public to authorize the sale of the former Philip Schuyler Elementary School/Albany High School for not less than $2 million. The measure passed 3,723-405 (90 percent approval). A buyer has not been identified for this building, which will continue as the home for the district's alternative-education programs for middle- and high-school students in 2012-13.

These are the fifth and sixth buildings the district has put on the market in recent years. Voters previously approved the sale of the former School 12, the former Alternative Learning Center at 27 Western Ave., the Buildings and Grounds headquarters at 270 Central Ave., and the former Philip Livingston Magnet Academy on Northern Boulevard. All of those sales have closed or are pending.

 

School budget seeks to balance student, community needs

The board voted at its April 3 meeting to approve the 2012-13 budget proposal. The 1.5 percent tax-levy increase was less than half of the district's tax cap under the state's new formula (3.05 percent). It is the second year in a row that the board has provided a budget that holds the tax-levy increase below 2 percent. In 2011 the board approved a budget that had zero increase in the tax levy and resulted in a decrease in school taxes for Albany homeowners. Over the last four years the district's tax-levy increase has averaged 1.98 percent.

 

"Each of the last three years has been increasingly more difficult as our community and state face fiscal hardships," said Superintendent Raymond Colucciello, Ed.D. "These are the same hardships that our families and schools face each day. This board has and continues to work hard under these difficult circumstances to maintain programs that our 8,700 students need and deserve."

 

Although the district will continue to support the vast majority of the academic, extracurricular and social-emotional programs it provides this year, the continued reduction in state aid for 2012-13 will have an impact in some areas. The budget, which includes the use of $9.9 million from the district's fund balance and reserves, also includes $3.8 million in staff and program cuts. Those cuts will:

  • Increase class sizes and eliminate some elective courses at Albany High School and at the middle-school level. Funding for art and music electives at Albany High, among the proposed cuts in earlier drafts of the budget plan, was restored in the final version the board approved April 3. The final version also reinstated a partial cut that had been proposed in Albany High's Career Explorations program for seniors; course offerings in that program will remain the same in 2012-13.

  • Downsize two Cabinet positions and eliminate an after-school coordinator, an assistant elementary principal, two social workers, and five teachers and 12 support staff positions in Special Education.

  • Eliminate 15 daily substitute teaching positions and 20 daily substitute positions for hall monitors.

  • Convert two prekindergarten classrooms from district staff to qualified community-based organizations.

There were numerous opportunities for community members to learn more about the 2012-13 budget proposal in advance of the May 15 vote. These included:

  • Thursday, April 12 -- New Scotland-Woodlawn Neighborhood Association, First Congregational Church of Albany, 405 Quail St.

  • Saturday, April 14 -- North Albany-Shaker Park Neighborhood Association, Atria Shaker, 345 Northern Blvd.

  • Tuesday, May 1 -- Montessori Community Council, Montessori Magnet School, 65 Tremont St.

    Wednesday, May 2:

    • Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations monthly meeting, Albany Public Library main branch, 161 Washington Ave.

    • William S. Hackett Middle School PTA meeting, 45 Delaware Ave.

  • Thursday, May 3 --Board of Education budget hearing, Albany High School, 700 Washington Ave.

  • Tuesday, May 8 -- Beverwyck Neighborhood Association, Orlo School of Hair Design, 232 N. Allen St.

  • Wednesday, May 9 -- Eagle Point Elementary School PTA, 1044 Western Ave.

  • Thursday, May 10 -- Delaware Avenue Neighborhood Association, Albany Public Library Delaware branch, 331 Delaware Ave.

  • Monday, May 14 -- Albany High School PTSA, 700 Washington Ave.

The budget-development process this year once again included a Community-based Budget Committee that held two meetings in January to provide information about the district's budget process.

 

Please call Clerk of the Board Catherine Cutting at 475-6010 if you have any questions or would like additional information.  

 

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