B y Bill Toscano
As expected, Granville voters approved a $24 million budget and re-elected school board members Kathy Nelson and John Shaw Tuesday night.
The unexpected came in the election of Suzanne McEachron to the board as a write-in candidate. One of the seats was up for grabs by a write-in candidate, because board member Pam Tatko decided not to run for re-election. McEachron, who campaigned by word of mouth and through flyers, was an easy winner, gaining 93 votes. No other write-in candidate – and there were more than a dozen – got more than a handful of votes.
The budget passed by a vote of 287 to 190, and voters approved the purchase of three new vans by a 227-154 margin. Nelson received 345 votes and Shaw got 300.
Superintendent Mark Bessen had said he expected the write-ins would cause a slight delay in counting votes, but the process went smoothly and did not take more than 20 minutes to complete.
McEachron was not in the Granville Central School auditorium when the results were announced, but Bessen said that since she had campaigned, he fully expected her to take the seat.
Bessen, and the two re-elected members expressed gratitude and relief that the $24 million budget, which increases taxes by 1.5 percent.
“It was a community effort,” Bessen said. “Teachers gave up money, other people gave up money, all for the good of the schools. It took a total community effort for the budget to be successful.”
Nelson, who is the board president and has been on the school board for 16 years, echoed the superintendent.
“I’m just glad it passed. I really appreciate the support.”
Shaw, who has been on the board for 12 years, was equally grateful.
“I am very, very happy to have it passed,” he said. “The teachers really helped us out,”
The tax increase will add $98,500 in revenue as 1 percent of the budget is approximately $65,000.
The school district budget will use $684,000 from the district’s fund balance to make up for the shortfall in state education aid when the governor cut $1,5 billion from education funding.
The budget includes the loss of 23 jobs, 15 members of the support staff and eight teachers. The proposed elimination of 13 teachers’ positions was reduced with a deal announced by the district April 7.
Concessions from the Granville Teachers ‘Association in the form of a salary freeze and healthcare considerations helped to reduce the number of teacher layoffs included in the budget by five, from 13 to eight.
District officials said the cuts to the budget totaled $1 million and included reducing a district office position from full to part time, shifting the schedule of a janitor who previously received overtime for working on Saturday and reduced spending for field trips and library books.
The board was focused on keeping the increase below the 2-percent cap which Gov. Andrew Cuomo campaigned on. That cap has not gone into effect, but Gov. Cuomo continues to push for it.
Nelson said the biggest issue facing the board now are the continuing cutbacks in state aid. “The cuts have just been huge.”
She said the schools also have to work toward improving students’ test scores.