May 17, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Jordan-Elbridge residents said “no” to everything put forth by the school board during today’s budget vote. The spending plan of $27,596,582, that assumed a tax levy increase of 7.3 percent and eliminated 17.7 teaching positions, received only 323 votes in favor compared to 1,282 votes against.
Propositions to purchase four school buses at a cost not to exceed $250,000 and to increase funding to Elbridge Free and Jordan Bramley libraries by $3,000 each were both rejected.
So, what did pass?
A proposition put on the ballot by a petition of more than 50 residents to reduce the size of the school board from nine members to seven. It received 976 votes in favor and 618 against.
“Thank you to everyone that supported prop #3,” wrote Brad Hamer, who filed the petition, on the Eagle Observer’s Facebook page minutes after the results were posted. Hamer was the athletic director at J-E before retiring in February.
The reduction will take effect in the spring of 2012. Board members Connie Drake, Penny Feeney and Erica O’Brien’s terms expire next spring, at which point only one incumbent can be re-elected.
Kris Maitland-Humphreys, a parent in the district, was one of 1,282 residents to vote “no” to the budget.
“I voted ‘no’ because I am concerned that with Dr. Zacher and Paul VanMinos having a hand in it, I do not feel that it was the best or well laid plan for the community,” she said. “I think the board needs to go back and revise the budget, perhaps with input from an independent account firm, and then put it back to the community for a vote.”
She said the board’s recent firing of interim Superintendent Larry Zacher and suspension of Director of Operations Paula VanMinos did not affect her vote.
“I was going to vote ‘no’ from the get go, because for months I have suspected there was something deceitful about the two of them,” she said.
The school board decided to remove both administrators from the district last night due to VanMinos’ unusual contract, negotiated with the district by VanMinos and recommended for approval by Zacher, that would force the next school board to grant her tenure or pay a fine of $308,000. The board approved the contract by a vote of 6-3 Feb. 2, but declared it void Monday because it had not been reviewed by legal counsel.
The front-page Post-Standard story that broke the news of the contract this past Sunday also said a reporter had seen VanMinos entering Zacher’s Skaneateles home at night and leaving the next morning.
Lou Barbaglia, facilities manager at J-E, supported the proposed budget.
“I work here, so you have to vote positive, and you have to think positive,” he said. “There’s still a lot of good people here despite the newspaper comments and everything else that goes on. There’s a lot of good people here doing a good job – it’s a good school district.”
He said he wasn’t happy with the proposed 7.3 percent tax levy increase, but saw it as a sign of the times, pointing to the decrease in state aid to J-E.
“This community, like everybody else, has learned to live on state aid, and we’re in trouble,” he said.
At a budget hearing May 10, financial analyst Rick Timbs, who is overseeing the district’s capital project, told residents that J-E lost $1,817 in state aid per student this year, the second highest loss among school districts state-wide.
The school board will holds its regular meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the high school cafeteria.