CRARYVILLE–The Taconic Hills Central School District Board of Education unanimously approved several resolutions at its December 21 meeting, including participation in the Cold War Veterans Exemption program for property tax assessments.
Under the Cold War Veterans Exemption program, eligible veterans must have served between 1945 and 1991. The district says there are 41 such veterans living in the towns that comprise the school district. They can now receive an exemption of 15% up to a maximum of $12,000 on the assessed value of their primary residence in the district; veterans with service-related disabilities are be eligible for a maximum exemption of up to $40,000 on the assessed value of their homes.
The state authorized school districts to offer the exemption program but each district must decide whether to participate and at what level. The state does not reimburse the districts for the exemptions. A public hearing on the exemption was held prior to the regular school board meeting.
Taconic Hills District Business Manager Cybil Howard said that participation in the program would not have “a great impact” on school taxes paid district residents not eligible for the exemptions. Columbia County and the towns making up the school district already participate in the program. Ms. Howard did not know how many of the 41 veterans have service related disabilities.
At the meeting the board also agreed to apply to the state’s Smart School Investment Program, a $2-billion fund created by a bond act to advance sustainable technology and infrastructure. The district’s proposed share would $918,000. Of that amount $25,000 would go to Hawthorne Valley School, a private school, if Hawthorne Valley officials choose to participate by submitting a plan for use of the funds.
There was discussion of whether Hawthorne Valley would participate and how the school would spend its allotment. Ms. Howard told the board that the money would revert to the Taconic Hills District if Hawthorne Valley declines the funding.
In other actions last month:
• The board adopted 10 new courses generated by student interest. In her report to the board, Sandra Gardner, the district’s director of student instruction and staff development, said that some of the courses would provide “employment-ready skills” for high school graduates–she cited two agribusiness courses and an introduction to computer animation as examples. Other courses would better prepare students for college, like data analysis, “which students are expected to know before entering college,” Ms. Gardner added.
The other new courses are: agri-science, sustainable business, mathematics of nanotechnology, mathematics of STEM, digital media production, small animal care and veterinary science. The courses are worth a half credit and will not require additional faculty
• The district may not have to replace all faucets where tests of the water showed higher than acceptable levels of lead. Director of School Facilities Nicholas Smith reported that the state Department of Health is considering whether to accept warning signs for faucets in science labs. Other requirements include not allowing food and drink in the labs and locking the lab doors when the rooms are not in use for instruction.
Tests showed that water from a total of 55 faucets at the Taconic Hills campus exceed allowable levels lead. At an earlier meeting the board approved spending up to $15,000 to replace the faucets
• The district underwent a state audit of food spending and meals preparation. According to Business Business Manager Howard, the review calls for an increase of protein and grains by one ounce per meal served. Also called for was greater adherence to the “Buy American” proviso. Labeling on some inventory found that the sources were China, Taiwan and Canada
• Superintendent of Schools Neil Howard reported that the state Board of Regents has recommended a $2.1 billion increase in state education funding for 2017. The recommendation will be considered by the state legislature and the governor as the state budget is prepared and debated over the next few months
• In their reports both Elementary School Principal John Gulisane, Jr. and Junior/Senior High School Principal James Buhrmaster acknowledged that December has been “challenging” and “difficult” for students as well as faculty and staff. A 13-year old district student and the mother of a district elementary student were killed in a recent traffic accident. Both principals praised the efforts of students, faculty and staff in helping people cope with their grief.