School budget calls for tax increase

Preliminary figures revealed on Wednesday project a 5.7 percent increase in what the Schoharie Centr

Preliminary figures revealed on Wednesday project a 5.7 percent increase in what the Schoharie Central School District needs to raise from taxes in the next school year.

Based on trends over the past few years, however, district Business Manager Robert Bonaker suggested that actual property tax rates will not increase that much.

Even though this year’s budget was up 7.6 percent over the previous stripped-down 2006-07 contingency budget, Bonaker said average tax rates increased only by 4.2 percent, once state equalization rates, aid and other factors were applied to the tax levy.

The district includes parts of eight towns, with varying tax equalization rates.

The $19.71 million 2008-09 budget outlined to the Board of Education includes all the instructional and operational needs of the district, according to district Superintendent Brian Sherman.

The budget is up about $1.04 million, or 5.56 percent, in spending over the current 2007-08 budget approved last May.

Bonaker cautioned that the preliminary revenue figures are based on Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposed state budget. Assuming the state Legislature agrees on a budget on time, “by the end of March we will have a clearer picture,” Bonaker said.

“State aid is not keeping pace with the cost of living,” Sherman added.

About 51 percent of revenue comes from state aid, with 43 percent coming from local taxes, according to Bonaker.

The tentative budget outlined Wednesday projects about $10 million in state aid, up about 4 percent over last year. The latest state aid projections under consideration could reduce that increase to about 2.5 percent, Bonaker said.

About 91 percent of the proposed budget increase, or $950,904, is tied to employee salary and anticipated health insurance increases, BOCES and cost of outstanding debt for capital projects and buses.

“So 91 percent of the increase we really don’t have any control over,” Bonaker said.

Although contract negotiations are ongoing, and health insurance rates are still not certain, 27.63 percent of the overall proposed budget increase is attributed to expected health insurance increases and 32.97 percent to salary adjustments.

Sherman said his proposed budget was nearly a “rollover” of the current spending plan, as far as programs and operations are concerned, there are a few additions.

New items include $25,000 for gym lockers, $20,000 for upgraded computer hardware, $18,000 for Tech Valley High School tuition for a second student and $5,000 for computer software recommended by auditors, Sherman said.

About 71 percent of the Tech Valley tuition could be funded by state aid, Bonaker said.

Among requested items not included in the draft budget are summer school programs projected at $50,000 for the junior/senior high school and $12,000 for elementary students.

A partial list of other staff requests not in the preliminary budget include three elementary teacher assistants ($87,000), a high school music teacher ($63,000), special education assistant ($29,000), high school lab equipment ($16,000), additional elementary textbooks ($48,000) and athletics/physical education items ($25,000). Sherman noted that he expects the board and district residents to discuss adding some of the requests, as the budgeting process continues over the next few months.

The school board plans to hold a public forum and workshop on the tentative budget at its March 19 meeting, according to board President F. Christian Spies.

The district is required to adopt a proposed budget by April 8, Sherman said. A public hearing will then by set for May 7, before district voters decide whether to approve the spending plan on May 20.

Categories: Schenectady County

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