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Salmon River eyes change in board seat elections

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FORT COVINGTON –– The Salmon River Central School District Board of Education is asking voters to consider a proposition to discontinue at-large elections for the school board.

If the proposition passes, it would repeal the current at-large system of selecting school board members, and vacancies on the board would instead be considered separate and specific seats. When candidates fill out the nominating positions to run for the board, they would need to cite a specific seat vacancy for which they are running.

Robert Durant proposed the idea to the board of education at the March 24 meeting. Mr. Durant said that this idea appeared on the ballot about 10 years ago and that he wanted it to appear on the ballot again.

Under the current school board election system, the top vote-getters among all candidates are awarded seats. This year, seven candidates are seeking three seats on the board - the three receiving the largest number of votes will be elected. Under the proposed change, candidates would have to declare their intention to seek a specific seat.

The change, if approved, would take effect for the 2015 school board election.

The board of education is asking the public for the authorization to purchase no more than one 65-passenger bus, one 28-passenger bus and an eight-passenger bus. The sum of the purchase will not exceed $200,000.

SRCS held a public hearing on their 2014-2015 budget plan this week. Superintendent Jane Collins and Business Executive Natascha Jock presented the proposed spending plan.

Ms. Collins praised the work Ms. Jock had done on development of the budget and said she deserved a lot of credit for what she has done since starting work at the district in 2011.

“I feel that this presentation is a good representation of what happens here at Salmon River,” Ms. Collins said.

The proposed $29,453,598 spending plan calls for a tax levy of $1,978,899.

The budget calls for 2 percent increase in the district’s tax levy, an increase of that raises $39,081 in additional revenue.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a tax cap for the districts. The tax cap is a seven-step formula that determines the maximum tax levy increase allowable with a simple majority vote. Any budget exceeding the tax cap must be passed by a supermajority –– or 60 percent of voters.

Ms. Jock said that based on the state formula the district’s tax cap is 2.94 percent. Ms. Jock said thes tax levy increase is below the tax cap and the taxpayers will be eligible for a credit for the increase in taxes from 2013 to 2014. Taxpayers should receive the credit before the November elections.

SRCS received an increase in state aid of $532,727 between foundation aid and the changes in the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Since 2010, SRCS lost a total of $5,136,223 due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the money give-back in this year’s state budget is just a portion of the aid lost in the past.

SRCS received an additional $882,000 in other state aid besides the foundation aid and the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Overall, spending is going up by 1.3 percent.

The approved state budget gave the district an increase in funding from last year. Ms. Collins wants to allocate some of that additional funding to two new positions - a teaching assistant for the kindergarten classes and an art teacher.

Ms. Collins said if the voters support the budget they will be preserving reasonable class sizes, Advanced Placement classes, the arts, foreign language classes, guidance, the STEM program in the middle school, HVAC, agricultural programs, summer school, extracurricular activities and the sports programs.

The vote for the budget, propositions and the school board seats will be held from noon to 8 p.m. May 20 in the high school gym.

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