Minerva Central School officials were somber Thursday after learning their nearly $5.1 million budget was defeated for the third and final time.
The vote was 246 in favor to 208 opposed. The 54 percent approval rate fell short of the 60 percent supermajority required because the budget’s 12 percent tax levy increase exceeded the district’s 2.75 percent cap.
“It’s incredibly disappointing,” Minerva Board of Education President Bone Bayse said.
Now, the board is forced to adopt a contingency budget that keeps the tax levy flat, which requires cutting nearly a half-million dollars in spending.
Three full-time teaching positions in English, math and science for grades seven through 12 are being cut. Part-time music and physical education positions would be cut. Full-time teachers in art, foreign language and technology, as well as a school librarian would have their hours cut to part time. Also, grades five and six would be combined and taught by one teacher.
Funding for extracurricular activities and athletics would be reduced. Among the cuts are a reduction on the Odyssey of the Mind teams, elimination of school funding for middle school and senior trips and transportation for non-league athletic competitions.
This was the third attempt to pass the budget. The first vote on May 19 received 56 percent approval.
However, there was a discrepancy between the number of votes registered on the machine — a total of 399 — and the 408 voters that inspectors counted going into the booth. The district and some residents each filed appeals to state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., who granted the do over because of the irregularity. The school board put the same budget out for a revote on June 17. About 59 percent of the voters cast yes ballots.
Superintendent Timothy Farrell expressed frustration that the district received majority support for each budget vote, but didn’t reach the 60 percent threshold.
“A majority of the community continue to support the school under very difficult circumstances,” he said. “Unfortunately, those are the rules that are in place.”
Farrell added the district’s task is clear.
“Implement the best program we can with what we’ve got left,” he said.
Farrell said before the results were known that this was the highest turnout, so it appeared to reflect the will of the community.
School officials didn’t know why the support dropped this time. There were a few more “no” votes and a few less “yes” votes.
A steady stream of people filed in and out of the building during the dinner hour to cast ballots. Their opinions seemed to reflect the split outcome.
A couple who did not wish to be identified said they voted “no” even though they have children in school because they believe some cuts could have been made to offset the size of the tax increase.
Resident Angie Trainer said she voted “yes” on the budget because the school is central to the community.
“It’s part of our society here,” she said.
Trainer feared students ultimately would have to be transferred to another district.
“How much more can you scale down?” she asked.
Hayley Killon, who also voted in favor of the budget, said she is a big supporter of the district. She worried that children would lose band, physical education and labs.
“It’s a great school. It’s sad that there are business owners in this town that are voting ‘no’ and getting people to vote no,” she said.
One such businessman, repair garage owner Ron Bennett, said he is fed up with the management of the district.
“This is crazy. They spend so much money it’s ridiculous,” he said. “You got an employee for every two kids in this school.”
“They should shut the school down and consolidate with Newcomb or Johnsburg,” he added.