Preview: Saugerties School Board trustee and budget vote

Saugerties voters on June 9 will be asked to approve three candidates on the ballot running to fill three open seats on the Saugerties Central School District Board of Education.

Local school districts are sending paper ballots through the mail, with any vote returned by Tuesday, June 9 at 5 p.m. counting. As in the past, budgets falling within the state-mandated tax cap will pass with a simple majority; spending plans seeking a higher local tax increase than the state cap would need a supermajority of 60 percent or higher.

As for when results in budget votes and school board elections will be revealed, no one is certain. Though ballots will be received sporadically over the next two weeks, they cannot be opened until after the June 9 deadline.

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Budget

The Saugerties Central School District (SCSD) School Board adopted a $66,471,574 proposed budget for the 2020-21 school year, an increase of $1,172,152, or 1.80 percent over the 2019-20 spending plan. The budget proposal includes a local tax levy increase of 2.18 percent, or $867,742, bringing the total to $40,631,060. The proposed tax levy increase is at the maximum allowable under the state mandated cap for the district, meaning the budget will pass by a simple majority of greater than 50 percent.

The proposed budget overcame a deficit of $1,785,303 by tapping into a fund balance ($1,440,303), ERS reserve ($330,000) and unemployment reserve ($15,000). The deficit is partly due to a projected reduction in state aid of $408,893, or 1.77 percent. The governor’s office has indicated that further reductions during the school year are also possible depending upon the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

School Board Candidates (Three Uncontested Seats)

Susan Gage (Village of Saugerties)

Susan Gage is a retired director of special education at SCSD; currently interim assistant to the superintendent for special education at Catskill Central School District; she is just finishing her first three-year term on the BOE.

What motivates you to want to serve on the Saugerties School Board?

I continue to be motivated to be on the school board to stay connected to education in Saugerties and to work to make it a place that people want to have their kids attend. In these past three years, the BOE has made some significant changes to the central administration with our new superintendent, business official and human resources director. These changes have once again brought back great teamwork with the BOE and administration. Even now with the pandemic, central administration, principals, teachers and staff are working hard to find the best ways to help students. I have not seen this type of enthusiasm and dedication in my time at Saugerties.

What skills do you bring to the work?

As the previous director of special education here at Saugerties, I have great insight into the district. I bring past practice information and knowledge. I was also a member of the STA and SESA before becoming an administrator. I have a well-rounded picture of the district.

What do you see as the greatest challenge the district faces at this time?

The greatest challenge is budgetary. With the governor threatening to cut aid by 20 percent for next year and the budget already tight, the BOE will have to make some tough decisions. We need to look at what is the best way to continue to provide quality education for our children with less money. Also, if we return in the fall, how will we be able to educate kids and keep them safe — social distancing — if we are still dealing with COVID-19 issues?

What would you like to see the board accomplish over the next few years?

Our building project passed by the voters so our students will not only receive a great education, but also attend buildings that are updated and safe. Also to develop new programming that would include online learning as an option for certain students. We are seeing that some students are doing exceptionally well with this approach. Some students do not do well in the traditional school setting and end up dropping out. Our number-one goal is to graduate students; if online learning can help more achieve that, we need to address and change our approach.

Krista J Barringer (Saugerties)

Krista Barringer is a social worker. She has served six years on the Saugerties School Board, five years on Ulster County BOCES School Board and five years as either the president or vice president of the Ulster County School Board Association.

What motivates you to want to serve on the Saugerties School Board?

I began my school board adventure with a desire to see change. I felt there was a gap between the school board and the community at large. I wanted to find ways to bring more sunlight and transparency to what the board did and does for all students, teachers and the entire Saugerties community. I feel that over the past six years the board, as a team, has worked to effect this change. We have an amazing group of people and it is an honor to serve with them.

What skills do you bring to the work?

I am a questioner through and through. I ask a lot of questions. Sometimes I ask questions to educate myself and sometimes I ask questions to ensure there is transparency in the actions of the board as well as to highlight the amazing work that is happening each and every day at the school district. The questions sometimes highlight issues that need to be addressed in the near or distant futures. Education has been, and even more so today, an ever evolving industry. As a board member, I hope to continue to represent the Saugerties community as we work together to address the needs of today and prepare for the education of tomorrow.

What do you see as the greatest challenge the district faces at this time?

Today, the number-one challenge in public education across this district, the county, the state and even the nation is providing the sound basic education to all students despite the obstacles faced due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tomorrow, the number-one challenge will be how to recover and respond to the new face of education that will be the result of lessons learned today. I look forward to learning from our experts, hearing the opportunities that will exist and joining my fellow board members are we work together to ensure our district students, teachers, administrators and partners have what they need to be the best they can be.

What would you like to see the board accomplish over the next few years?

We have accomplished so much in the last few years, it is amazing to think of what additional can be done. Ultimately, in the near future, we need to finalize a capital plan and seek a public vote. There are basic infrastructure needs that have to be addressed. I believe that we can follow that up with a community-wide discussion of a long-range facility and education plan. When I think of the needs of the student of 2038, the student born this year, I realize it is not the same as the students of 2020, but from the lessons learned this year, we, the Saugerties community, can make a plan with incremental changes that are proactive and not reactive and which moves the district to 2038 and beyond.

Timothy Wells (Saugerties)

Timothy Wells is a branch manager (ADMAR Supply, Latham); he has had no previous school board experience.

What motivates you to want to serve on the Saugerties School Board?

I personally have three children that go to the SCSD. I want to make sure our children are getting the best education possible. With that said, I also want to make sure that the taxpayers’ money isn’t wasted on programs or other endeavors that are not being utilized or fitting what the district really needs.

What skills do you bring to the work?

In my professional life, I run a multi-million dollar branch. I have to put together budgets that make sense for the company and make sure we are spending properly. As a leader of our branch, I encourage employees to give thoughts and opinions to work collaboratively to drive better results. I also coach multiple sports teams for our youth in the Saugerties area. I have to work with children/parents often in that regards. Sometimes we don’t always see eye-to-eye, but I feel that I am able to develop a mutual respect from them by listening to what they are saying and processing it. Not just listening to respond.

What do you see as the greatest challenge the district faces at this time?

COVID-19 is a huge part of our lives today. We are not sure whether or not the kids will even be able to go back into the schools for the 2020-2021 school year. We need to continue to work on the challenges of online learning. I have spoken to many teachers and parents of student and they both have frustrations with online learning. We need to streamline this a bit and make it easier for both student and teachers to work with.

What would you like to see the board accomplish over the next few years?

There are quite a few things that I would like to see the board accomplish. We have needs for updates to the schools and as we move forward, they will need to be addressed if we can make them work into the budget properly. I would also hope that the board can try to get more involvement from our community. I feel we are supposed to work as a team — the board and the community. I would like to gain as much insight from them as possible. These are the people we serve on the board. Each of us see the world from our own angles and have our own ideas. I think the more involvement and voices heard from the community the better the board can serve the community.

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