SOMERS, N.Y. – Though its $1.7 million price tag does not add a dime to tax bills, a proposed upgrade of school athletic facilities does need an OK from residents to become reality.
“There’s no cost to the voters,” the schools’ assistant superintendent for business said last week. Updating school board members on 2017-18 budget progress, Kenneth Crowley said, “We have the money…All we need to do is ask the voters for permission to expend those dollars.”
Residents will go to the polls May 16 to render judgment on a proposed $88.2 million operating budget and to fill two school board seats, one of them held by an incumbent who will not seek re-election. But voters will also be asked to approve the spending of $1,723,508 in reserve cash to resurface two artificial-turf fields and acquire new equipment for the high school’s fitness/wellness center.
The new turf carpets would replace artificial surfaces laid down 10 years ago on soccer and football fields at Somers High School.
Even with voter approval in May, however, the state-champion Tusker football team and other Somers athletes are a long way from refurbished fields of play. Crowley predicted at least a year’s delay in getting the state Education Department to sign off on the project.
“We would probably not see any movement on this until the summer of 2018, at the earliest,” he said.
Meanwhile, the project’s funding sits in a capital-reserve account established in 2014. Approved by the voters and funded with unspent dollars in the Somers Central School District’s operating budget, the account provides a way to stockpile cash for future needs.
Money going into the capital reserve must be earmarked for specific projects and can only be taken out after voters agree that the spending is necessary. That will be the case in May.
“We’re asking permission to expend those funds,” Crowley told the school board. “That’s what that proposition is requesting.”
Voters will also be asked to approve an operating budget of $88,224,866—a rise of $1,323,115 in spending—for the school year beginning July 1. Tax-cap-compliant, the proposed budget anticipates a hike in the tax levy of $1,318,504, or 1.77 percent, over current spending.
Residents would see their tax rates rise by $2.43 (1.5 percent) to $160.23 for each $1,000 of assessed value.
State aid, as always, remains a question at this point. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommended a billion-dollar statewide aid increase in January. Nevertheless, Crowley said, Somers’ piece of the pie stands to drop.
“We are getting a decrease of $56,000 in our overall state aid,” he told the board.
The state legislature, however, will have the final say on aid, and both houses have raised the governor’s increase, the Assembly pushing it to $1.8 billion and the Senate to $1.2 billion. The state budget has an April 1 deadline.
Somers’ budget is expected to be adopted April 18, with a public hearing to follow on May 9.
Graffitti leaving school board
Trustee Linda Graffitti said this week that she will not seek re-election to the school board. Graffitti has served consecutive three-year terms.
Two of the board’s seven seats are scheduled to be up for grabs in the May 16 voting. Trustee Chadwick Olsen said he plans to seek re-election to his own for a three-year term.
To run for a board seat, candidate petitions must be submitted by April 17. They are available from District Clerk Nancy Corrado in the Somers Middle School weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Hardy successor named
Philip Kavanagh was confirmed last week as the district’s $167,500-a-year director of school counseling and student support.
Director of guidance in the Lakeland Central School District for more than 12 years, Kavanagh succeeds Deborah Hardy in the Somers counseling role.
A public outcry arose last year over reports that the popular Hardy would lose her $160,000-a-year position in an economy move. In the end, the district scrapped that budget cut, but Hardy resigned anyway in June. She now operates GuidED Consulting in Mahopac, providing counseling to both students and school districts.