Casey Croucher/Recorder Staff Frank Mucilli Sr. fills out his ballot for the Greater Amsterdam School District budget vote Tuesday at Lynch Literacy Academy.
Casey Croucher/Recorder Staff Kent McHeard, left, Peter Pritchard, center, and Nellie Bush, right share a triple handshake after hearing the Board of Election results.
By CASEY CROUCHER
By a 2-1 margin, Greater Amsterdam School District voters approved a $63.3 million budget for the 2014-15 school year Tuesday. Incumbents Nellie Bush, Peter Pritchard and Kent McHeard were also re-elected to the board of education.
The $63,315,237 spending plan, which was approved by a vote count of 695-300, has a .15 percent decrease in spending compared to this year's, which is a $92,243 spending reduction.
The district's tax levy also decreased by 3.75 percent, or $803,085, to a total of $20,634,525. This is due to a $1 million Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreement with the Target distribution center in the town of Florida, which puts the levy over the allowable tax cap.
There were no employee cuts written into next year's budget; instead, with an additional $1,031,000 in state aid, the district will replace 11 retiring staff members; eight teachers in kindergarten, fourth grade, special education, art and music, plus three additional support staff and an assistant principal in the middle school.
The extra state funding and Target PILOT program also allowed district officials to fund one-time expenditures, including the first year of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) program and the replacement of band uniforms. The district also established a retirement reserve, which can be used when the state and local retirement payments exceed anticipated appropriations.
The district's fund balance saw an increase from 3.37 percent to 4.4 percent.
Final school tax rates, which establish how much property owners pay per $1,000 of assessed property value, won't be determined until June.
Superintendent Thomas Perillo said this is the third year in a row district voters approved the budget.
"I just want to thank voters for coming out and voting," Perillo said. "I want to thank them for having confidence in us."
Perillo said the voter turnout was much better this year, with 1,463 total votes compared to last year's 1,060 votes.
Andrea Prusky, who came in fourth place in the board of education election, said she was excited by the 524 votes she received, even though she lost.
"I'm excited because the community listened to me and my turnout was good; it means people are listening," Prusky said. "People got out to vote and that's what matters. I was really hopeful that I'd win but I wish the winners the best of luck."
Perillo said he was excited the incumbents won because they've "performed excellently" the past three years, and he was excited by the turnout for newcomer Prusky.
Bush, who received the biggest turnout with 773 votes, said she was "humbled and honored by the public."
"I want to continue to provide open communication with the public, listen to the public and get to know the public," she said. "I'll continue providing them with information so that they can make decisions. My main goal is to provide the necessary components for our students' achievement. I don't take this position lightly -- it's all about the children."
Pritchard, who came in second with 673 votes, said he wants to continue doing positive things for the school district.
"This board has been good about being transparent with transactions and that's what I want to continue," he said. "We're good at doing what we say we'll do."
McHeard, who garnered 627 votes, also said he's humbled to serve the community again.
"I'm going to continue advocating for education so that children are better prepared when they leave," he said.
The Fort Hunter Library proposition was also on Tuesday's ballot; it failed by a close margin of 487-493.