GASD board approves proposed 2016-2017 budget

The Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education approved a $68.79 million budget proposal for the 2016-17 school year at Wednesday’s regular meeting. The budget that residents will vote on next month features a tax levy decrease of 0.82 percent to a total of $20.88 million, without any cuts to programs or staff.

The tax levy decrease is equal to the maximum allowable tax levy under the state’s property tax cap. Under the reduced tax levy, taxpayers in the City of Amsterdam will experience a tax rate of $27.33 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value, a decrease of 17 cents from the current year’s rate. Taxpayers in the Town of Amsterdam will see a rate of $206.20 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value, a decrease of $5.89 from the current year.

All other municipalities in the GASD will see a rate decrease except the Town of Florida, which will increase by 4 cents from the current year to a rate of $40.83.

The $68.79 million proposed budget is an increase of $3.69 million over the current year’s budget. The overall increase is due to an increase in state aid, the differential from the retirement of 16 staff members, and the allocation of $536,069 from the district’s reserve funds.

The increased budget will allow the district to add four teachers in the elementary and secondary levels to address team teaching and population bubbles, as well as 2.5 additional support staff members for areas of need. The district also plans to increase the presence of school resource officers at the secondary schools.

The district will also begin offering year round after school busing for tutoring and after school detention. Previously, the district was only able to offer after school busing during the second half of the school year. The budget also allows for additional distance learning courses at the high school.

The budget features three one-time expenditures. These costs include funding for the first year of the new Agriculture Pathways in Technology Early College High School, a program that will be offered through HFM BOCES to freshman beginning next year. The district will also fund additional seats in the Adirondack Academy as well as additional computers for staff members in all schools.

The public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on May 3 at the Amsterdam High School in the Media Center at 6 p.m. The budget vote will take place on May 17 from noon to 9 p.m.

In addition to the budget proposition, voters will elect two candidates to the Board of Education. The two seats that are up for election are currently held by John Bottisti and Robert Vennett. Each seat is for a three year term, those interested in running must file a nominating petition with the district clerk by April 27.

Also on the ballot will be a proposition to support the Amsterdam Free Library and the Fort Hunter Free Library through an annual $210,000 property tax levy. $200,000 would go to the Amsterdam Library, while $10,000 would go to the Fort Hunter Library. The cost to GASD residents to fund the libraries would be 21 cents per $1,000 of true assessed property value.

Ashley Onyon

Ashley Onyon is a graduate of the journalism program at SUNY Albany. She has contributed articles to The Mohawk Valley Independent and the annual journal Upstream.