Cast Your Ballot: Annual School Budget Vote is May 21

On Tuesday, May 21 — Watervliet City School District residents will vote on a proposed $41,394,000 budget for the 2024-25 school year, a proposition to permit the district to establish a capital reserve fund, and elect two candidates to the Board of Education.

Voting will take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at two polling locations: Watervliet Elementary School and the Watervliet Elks Lodge.

Budget Overview

School Business Manager and Superintendent of Schools present information at public budget hearingIn April, the Board of Education adopted the budget proposal, which represents an increase of $3.6 million, or 9.6 percent, compared to the current year. It will allow the district to maintain all personnel, programs and services, and invests in supports to address the needs of all students. A projected state aid increase of $3.5 million will help offset spending.

A reduction in state building aid made the district eligible for a capital levy exclusion, which would yield a maximum allowable tax levy limit of 11.8 percent based on the state’s tax “cap” calculation. District leaders and the Board of Education, however, chose not to apply the exclusion and to present a budget proposal with a much lower 1.89 percent tax levy increase. This is possible because of the district’s strategic approach to long-term fiscal stability, which includes setting aside funds to address disparities in state building aid and the district’s debt service payments without shifting the burden to taxpayers.

“We have worked diligently to develop a budget that meets the needs of our students while being mindful of economic factors that impact our community as well,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Stevens. “We believe this fiscal plan strikes that balance, and remains consistent with our mission to educate, inspire and challenge every student, every day.”

School tax rates, which determine the amount property owners pay per $1,000 of assessed value, are set when the City provides its final tax assessment data to the district in August.

Prioritizing Student Needs

The proposed school budget continues to prioritize teaching and learning, and provides other targeted supports to meet student needs, which includes:

  • Addition of two reading specialists to provide small group and personalized instruction that builds stronger literacy skills and increases proficiency for elementary students
  • Expansion of the EVOLVE program with a second full-time educator will offer more students an alternative learning pathway to graduation.
  • Increase teaching positions at Watervliet Junior-Senior High School by three in the following areas: grade 6 (additional section), special education and business.
  • Introduce a student services coordinator to assist students with special needs and their families with transition to and from district programs, and add a district-wide speech therapist.
  • Increase the School Resource Officer commitment from three to five days per week.
  • A part-time security monitor position to promote safety at after-school activities and evening events.
  • Upgrade one-to-one technology necessary for student learning.
  • Add full-time driver for 24-passenger bus, purchase of a Suburban for student transportation and for food service department deliveries.

The district plans to partner with Green Island, Menands and Cohoes on a regional classroom collaborative to maximize teaching and learning for students with special needs and create more fiscally sustainable programs by sharing services.

Proposition 2: Capital Reserve Fund

Residents will consider a referendum to authorize the creation of a Capital Reserve Fund not to exceed $10 million for future construction projects and other major capital purchases over a 10-year term. The capital reserve is a separate account funded by annual transfers of unexpended operating funds. It will not increase local taxes, and funding from the reserve cannot be spent without public approval.

Board of Education Election

Two candidates have submitted petitions to run for two open seats on the Board of Education for three-year terms that commence July 1, 2024. The candidates will appear on the ballot in the following order:

  • Heather Soroka
  • Kyle Daniels

District leaders thank outgoing board member and current board president, Sheri Senecal, for her many years of service to the Watervliet schools and community. Mrs. Senecal, whose term ends on June 30, has decided not to seek reelection to the school board.

For information on absentee ballots, early voting, polling locations and more, visit our voter information web page.

Please mark your calendars and remember to vote on Tuesday, May 21.