• Forum Spotlights GEA, Budget, Capital Project 

     
    More than 70 people participated in a community forum hosted by the Queensbury Board of Education this March. Their discussions centered on ways to realize the community’s vision for its schools despite ongoing fiscal challenges, but many participants also left as active advocates for local students.
     
    Spread among the discussion tables were parents, retirees, students, educators, support staff, administrators, and other “concerned citizens” from the local community. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Douglas W. Huntley promised participants the evening would be about more than just budgets.
     
    “This is a presentation about the future of the Queensbury Union Free School District,” said Huntley.
     

    The superintendent began the evening discussing the results of the winter Community Education Summit, current and future educational initiatives, and state-fueled challenges to those initiatives. One such challenge is the governor’s proposed continuation of the gap elimination adjustment, or GEA, for schools. The GEA and its predecessor have already cost Queensbury schools $16 million in lost state aid since 2009-10. Click here to view a brief video that explains the GEA. 

    “It’s time to return the funds lost to the gap elimination adjustment to public schools. That’s what we’re advocating for,” said Huntley.

    He was joined in his advocacy by many forum participants, who signed letters calling for an end to the GEA. That letter is available to download as a PDF or a Word document.

    Huntley’s presentation also included projections for the 2014-15 school budget and several possible scenarios. In the worst case scenario, the district would have to close an estimated $750,000 budget gap if the GEA continues as proposed and if the district stays within its 1.45 percent property tax levy cap. That budget gap would be closed through “painful” reductions to programs, services and staff positions.

    The superintendent then discussed the value in preserving the district’s “capital assets” through two propositions up for a vote in May. One is for an $8.9 million infrastructure capital project that would have no additional local tax impact while addressing issues with aging roofs, health- and safety-related infrastructure, energy efficiency, and facilities used by students. The second is for the purchase of eight 72-passenger school buses and one 32-passenger wheelchair bus, replacing nine buses from 2002 and 2003.

    Click here to view the forum presentation. 

    After the presentation, community members shared their thoughts in response to the following questions:

    1. If the gap elimination adjustment is not restored in the adopted state budget, the Queensbury Board of Education will likely have to close a $750,000 budget gap.

      1. What concerns or questions do you have regarding the faculty and staff reductions under consideration to close that gap?

      2. How would you feel if the 2014-15 school budget proposal exceeded the district’s tax levy cap, as one measure in closing the budget gap?

    2. In May voters will consider an infrastructure capital project to address issues with aging roofs, health- and safety-related infrastructure, energy efficiency, and facilities used by students.

      1. What questions or concerns do you have about the project?

      2. How would your concerns affect your willingness to support the project?

    Click here for a summary of their feedback. That feedback was gathered for the Board of Education, which will consider it as it works to develop a 2014-15 school budget proposal. The board expects to adopt a budget proposal and any additional propositions by early April for a public vote in late May. Click here to learn more about the school budget. 

    During the discussions, community members were able to review a variety of handouts related to the topics covered in the presentation. Click on the links below to view those handouts.