By ALISSA SCOTT
For the Recorder
Residents approved a $63 million Greater Amsterdam School District budget for the 2013-14 school year on Tuesday. Incumbent John Bottisti and newcomer Robert Vennett were also elected to the seven-member school board.
The budget, which reports no increase in tax levies or any layoffs, implements an 8.7 percent increase in spending. It received 527 votes in favor and 448 votes against it.
Final school tax rates, which establish how much property owners pay per $1,000 of assessed property value, will be determined in June.
Business manager Kim Brumley said she was disappointed by the low voter turnout; she said only a little more than 900 people went to the polls.
"I was really hopeful that there would be much more," Brumley said. "We've been really trying this year so much more to try and get the information out to the voters ... I guess we're just going to go back to the drawing board and see who answered our exit surveys."
Voters were asked to complete exit surveys to give the school board feedback on the election process, the first time this strategy has been used. The results will be collated and then presented to the board who will use the information while constructing next year's budget.
Incumbent Carol Greco, who ran for a second term, finished last in the five-way school board race. Superintendent Thomas Perillo said he encourages her -- and the other "unsuccessful candidates" Katherine Hans and Laurie Hamblin -- to continue their involvement in the district and join one of the various committees available to community members.
"You can see by the numbers that the vote was very close, and it could have gone either way," Perillo said. "But, I think that [the candidates] all had the same mission in mind-to be financially responsible and to provide the best education we can for our students."
Bottisti, who received 505 votes and won first place, said he appreciates the community support, but now he wants to focus on the new budget.
"This is a reelection for me so I want to continue doing what we're doing," Bottisti said. "The district itself has come a long way in the three years I've been on the board, and before that. The graduation rate is starting to move up...and I want to be a part of that."
Vennett, coming in second at 403 votes, said he has two main goals for his upcoming term.
"Lowering taxes and getting the graduation rate increased," Vennett said. "Those are my key things."
School board President Nellie Bush said she is glad to have Bottisti back and happy about the new addition. She said moving forward, it's all about the students.
"[The board needs] to continue to be very fiscally responsible, but to ensure that the students get what they need to be successful," Bush said. "The students are our future. We have to make sure they're educated in a fiscally responsible way."
A proposition to provide funding to the Fort Hunter Library was also on the ballot, but was voted down for the third time.