OLEAN — Olean residents passed their district’s $39.8 million budget for the 2017-18 school year Tuesday.
The Olean City School District’s proposed $39,814,691 budget passed by a 268-to-37 margin. A second proposal for the creation of a vehicle purchase reserve fund also passed, 258 to 46.
OCSD Superintendent Dr. Colleen Taggerty, who will retire at the end of July, expressed pride in the wide margins of victory, as well as some bittersweet feelings.
“I’m feeling a sense of sadness since it’s my last budget that I presented to our community,” she told the Times Herald. “But I actually feel a sense of appreciation for the support over the last nine years.”
The budget represents a decrease of nearly $300,000 from this year’s $40.1 million budget. District officials said this is due to the district completing a project debt payment this year, as well as decreasing Teacher Retirement System rates.
The budget also represents the third year in a row of a zero percent increase in property tax levy. Therefore, the proposed tax levy will be the same as this school year — $13,750,593.
“The fact that we can come out in a zero increase in taxes I think is a significant influence in the vote,” Taggerty said. “I actually received an email from one of our constituents in the community who thanked us for really looking at the budget, keeping their taxes down and maintaining the programming for our students.”
Taggerty said she believes the 2017-18 budget is fiscally sound and the new superintendent “walking in will be able to focus on student achievement … and not have the pressure of how to sustain programming to do that.”
The Board of Education announced last week it has offered the superintendent position to Rick Moore, a former Salamanca City Central School District superintendent. Contract negotiations are pending, but the board expects to appoint Moore May 31.
THE TWO candidates running unopposed for five-year seats, incumbent Paul Hessney and newcomer Janine Fodor, received 261 and 240 votes, respectively. There were 17 votes for write-in candidates.
Hessney, a retired district teacher, said he’s happy to serve the district for another five years. He also dedicated his win to his late wife, Karen Hessney, who died of breast cancer in 2014 and originally urged him to run for school board. Karen Hessney was a former district employee and had served as the president of the Olean Teachers’ Association.
“She was an inspiration to a lot of people, and she certainly was an inspiration to me,” Hessney said.
Fodor, who provides in-house counsel for Iroquois Group, said she is pleased to be elected and is looking forward to serving the school district.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know the new superintendent,” she added, noting new leadership brings new energies.
(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)