Questions for Candidates: Garrison School Board

Although there are no challenges for trustee positions in the Garrison district — there will be two names on the ballot for two seats on the seven-member board — we asked the candidates to share why they are running and what priorities the district needs to address.

The district will also be asking voters to approve $12.36 million in spending for 2022-23, with a proposed tax levy increase of 9.18 percent. Because that exceeds a state-mandated tax cap of 2.2 percent, the budget must be approved by at least 60 percent of voters. In addition, voters will be asked to approve a proposal to allow the district to contract for two to five years to send its high school students to the Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery school district, rather than annually.

The polls will be open on Tuesday (May 17) from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the school, which is located at 1100 Route 9D.

Kent SchachtKent Schacht
Schacht is seeking his first full term. He was elected in 2021 to complete the final year of a vacant seat.

I’ve enjoyed my year as a trustee and helping support the school, which is such a vital asset to the community. As chair of the finance committee, I was immediately immersed in the challenges the district faces. I’ve worked hard with both the administration and board to build a plan to put district finances on track and focus on long-term fiscal health. We still have work to do in that regard.

The biggest short and long-term challenge is fiscal health. The administration and board have done a terrific job of investing and innovating to create a strong school with a great roster of teachers. The school is in as strong a place as it has been since I sent my first-born there nine years ago. Now the challenge is to maintain those investments and continue the progress while working through the budget challenges we have.

The district faces unprecedented rises in expenses that are beyond its control. Simultaneously, the district’s accessible reserves have been depleted partly due to expenses from the pandemic and adjustments needed in that crisis. Although the last thing the board and I wanted to do was ask for an override, it is the necessary and fiscally responsible thing to do.

I ask that the community trust me and the rest of the board in that this request for help was not taken lightly. It is the best way to put the district on a path to fiscal stability and avoid some difficult choices that will undoubtedly change the educational experience.

Sarah TormeySarah Tormey
Tormey is seeking her second term.

I have served on the Board of Education for the past three years, spending two of those years as president. I’m running for a second term because I believe in the educational experience we provide at the Garrison School for our K-8 students and the choice we currently afford our high school students.

The main issue the district needs to address this year, and in the coming years, is: How does Garrison provide an educational experience that meets the state standards and allows the district to remain competitive with our neighbors given our fiscal challenges?

The amount of revenue the district can generate under the New York State tax cap formula will not cover expenses due to rising costs in specific areas, namely: high-school tuition, health care, special education and transportation. To address this issue, the board adopted budget for 2022-23 includes a 9.18 percent levy increase but also eliminates some K-8 positions, primarily by attrition. Year-over-year, our spending on the K-8 program will decrease by about $90,000.

The district is working with our high schools to control costs in the future. There is a proposition on the ballot this year that would allow the Garrison to enter into a 2-to-5-year agreement with the Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery Central School District. Our district has proposed a 5-year contract that would establish a base rate tuition using the non-resident tuition rate for 2022-23 and then increase by the Consumer Price Index or 2 percent, whichever is less, in subsequent years.

If approved, the tuition rate for Highland Falls would mirror the tax cap formula and make the expense more manageable for Garrison. To be clear, this does not eliminate high school choice. The board-adopted budget includes funding for both high schools for the 2022-23 school year. However, I would like to see a long-term contract with Haldane at some point in the future to help us control costs. While we are not ready to put a proposition on the ballot, the Haldane district has been working with us to address our budget concerns for next year.

I hope everyone in our community will review the budget presentations, reach out to the district with questions, and vote on May 17.

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