×

St. Regis Falls budget passes on second try, 10 teachers resign

ST. REGIS FALLS — The St. Regis Falls Central School District’s revised $9.7 million proposed 2024-25 budget was approved by voters Tuesday in a 92-71 vote, with “yes” votes making up a 56.4% majority. Voters also elected Rick Yaddow, who was originally a write-in candidate, to the school board over incumbent board president Michelle Brockway in a resounding 123-38 runoff vote.

The school district has seen a turbulent school year, with roughly one-third of faculty set to resign at the end of the year, a slew of school board resignations and voter disapproval of the original proposed budget. St. Regis Falls was one of only 10 districts statewide that failed to pass a budget last month.

District voters narrowly rejected the district’s initial proposed budget on May 21 in a 107-120 vote and tied the school board race between Yaddow and Brockway at 76 votes each. Voters also rejected 126-104 a proposition that would’ve authorized the district to purchase a school bus and a van, but approved a second proposition 116-113 that authorized the district to establish a $375,000 capital reserve fund.

The final revised $9,791,580 budget decreases spending by $444,403, or 4.34%, from this year’s $9.6 million budget. The district’s first proposed budget came in around $9.9 million and decreased spending by $287,168.

The district’s tax levy, or the amount of money collected from taxpayers, will remain the same as that in the first proposed budget — $3,144,467, which after exclusions amounts to an increase of 2.12% over this year’s levy and meets the state-imposed tax cap for the district. The district serves students from five different towns, all with different school tax rates. Under both budgets, the district proposed to raise tax rates by 2.15% in each town.

Aside from the tax levy, the budget will also be funded by $6.4 million in state aid, $40,000 in federal aid and $126,328 in “miscellaneous” funds, with no contributions from the district’s reserves or fund balance. This varies from the first proposed budget, which allocated $96,063 from fund balance and an additional $61,172 in miscellaneous funds to help fund the budget. The reduction in revenue in the final budget is due to several anticipated reductions, including BOCES aid, district Superintendent Nicole Eschler told the Enterprise last month.

Cuts and reductions

The district’s initial proposed budget carried several cuts and reductions. The final budget cuts a further $157,235, the bulk of which is a $145,980 cut to the instructional budget, which accounts for several vacant teaching positions that’ll go unfilled during the next school year, Eschler said in May.

The school board has accepted many resignations in the past few months, including 10 teacher resignations at the May 21 board meeting. As of Thursday, the district has 31 teachers, meaning that roughly one-third of the district’s teachers have resigned ahead of the 2024-25 school year. As of Thursday, there were no vacant teacher positions posted on the district’s “employment opportunities” page.

Among cuts in the initial proposed budget — all carried over to the final budget — are several other already-vacant positions in the district, including a technology integration specialist, intervention teacher, a bus driver, human resources director, substitute teacher coordinator and social media coordinator.

The budget will combine two school principal positions into one K-12 position. Last November, Middle-High School Principal Danielle Emburey and Elementary School Principal Wendie Boucher were both fired on the same day. The school board and district superintendent declined to publicly state a reason for the firings at the time. The district is currently accepting applications for one K-12 school principal with a salary range of $80,000 to $110,000. According to budget documents, the school principals’ salaries for 2023-24 were $95,000 and $90,000.

The budget would also reduce — though not eliminate — printing costs, substitutes, software subscriptions, teaching assistant positions and overtime payments for salaried staff, which is typically granted in school districts when staff take on extra responsibilities like advising or chaperoning.

Board in limbo

The school board has seen several members resign throughout the 2023-24 school year. Board member Devil Furnace resigned on Nov. 25, 2023, and Maggie Engels was appointed to fill the vacant seat on Jan. 10, 2024. In the May election, Engels received the most votes, meaning that she was elected to a different vacant seat for a five-year term, which will begin in July. The seat that Engels left vacant — Furnace’s original seat — was won by write-in candidate Lisa Jimenez in May. She was sworn in immediately.

Board member Matthew Goodrow resigned on April 11. Incumbent board president Brockway and write-in candidate Yaddow tied at 76 votes to fill Goodrow’s vacant seat. Yaddow won the run-off election on Tuesday and was sworn in immediately.

On June 7, school board vice president Lyndon Farmer resigned from the school board. He did not cite a reason for his resignation, Eschler said. The board will decide at its July 2 meeting if it will hold a special election to fill Farmer’s seat or appoint someone to fill the seat.

The school board also passed a resolution on May 3 stating that it had probable cause to bring a removal hearing against a board member. A month earlier, on April 9, the board entered an executive session to discuss possible charges for the removal of a school board member. The executive session motion passed 4-1, with board member Gabriel Susice being the lone “nay” vote. The board then voted to exclude Susice from the executive session along the same 4-1 lines. As of the board’s Tuesday meeting, Susice remains on the board.

Correction: An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect start date for St. Regis Falls school board member Maggie Engels. Engels was appointed to the school board on Jan. 10, not April 10. Additionally, the district’s school principals’ salaries for 2023-24 were $95,000 and $90,000, not $47,700 and $47,250. The school district currently employs 31 teachers, not 28, and is currently hiring three teaching positions, though only 28 staff were listed on the district’s website as of Thursday and no job listings were posted. The Enterprise regrets the errors.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today