Boards adopt budget plans

Armed with additional aid from the state Legislature Wednesday, school boards in Schoharie and Middl

Armed with additional aid from the state Legislature Wednesday, school boards in Schoharie and Middleburgh adopted 2008-09 budgets that reduced tax levy projections from earlier estimates.

The $19.71 million budget proposal for the Schoharie Central School District carries a projected 4.4 percent increase in the tax levy. That was down from a proposed 5.7 percent increase.

In Middleburgh, the board finalized a $19.84 million budget proposal to send to voters, with a proposed tax levy increase of 2.26 percent, down from an earlier estimate of 3.4 percent.

The tax levy is the amount raised from taxes. While officials in both districts have indicated average tax rates may roughly correspondent with tax levy percentage increases, the actual effect on tax bills typically varies among towns based on local assessments and state equalization rates set later in the year.

The Schoharie district has about 1,060 students, about 150 more than Middleburgh,

Both districts cover large rural geographic areas. Middleburgh encompasses all or parts of 11 towns, while Schoharie serves students in eight towns.

Except for a few minor adjustments, the proposed budgets adopted Wednesday were virtually unchanged from spending plans worked over the past few weeks and maintain existing programs.

District officials said they received state aid figures Wednesday morning as legislators and Gov. David Paterson completed approval of the state’s budget.

In both districts, the aid was higher than in former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposed state budget.

The Legislature increased Schoharie’s aid by $69,029, while Middleburgh will receive about $90,000 more than the Spitzer proposals, according to district officials.

In Schoharie, state aid increased by 4.78 percent over the current year, said Business Administrator Robert Bonaker.

In Middleburgh, the projected aid increased by close to 6 percent, according to Business Manager John DeSanto.

Aid to both districts totaled approximately $10 million each, slightly more than half the total budgets.

Actual aid amounts will depend on accounting of district expenditures at end of the year.

Separate public hearings in each district are set for 7 p.m. May 7.

For Schoharie district taxpayers, the hearing will be in the Schoharie High School cafeteria.

For the Middleburgh district, the hearing will be in the high school auditorium.

Voters in school districts statewide will decide whether to accept proposed budgets on May 20.

Middleburgh Board of Education President Donald Wood said he was particularly pleased the budget came in only $23,617 over what a basic contingency budget for next year would be.

“I’m very, very happy that we could go down to a 2.26 percent tax levy [increase],” Wood said.

Major expenses driving the budgets in both districts included contractual salary increases, health insurance, costs for Board of Cooperative Educational Services, debt service and higher anticipated fuel costs.

In Schoharie, district Superintendent Brian Sherman noted that estimated heating oil and diesel fuel increases of $98,000 reflects 9.44 percent of the total proposed budget change.

During a public comment period at Wednesday’s board meeting, Schoharie district resident Lester Hendrix urged school officials to pursue solar power generators and more efficient use of electricity and building use to cut costs.

School board President F. Christian Spies said the district is already considering the possibility of installing some solar-powered systems.

Former teacher Arlene Vrooman repeated her suggestion raised in March that school teachers and staff pay a greater share of their health benefits.

Categories: Schenectady County

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