School board adopts $8.12M spending plan

The $8.12 million budget adopted Monday by the Board of Education will raise the tax levy by 3 perce
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The $8.12 million budget adopted Monday by the Board of Education will raise the tax levy by 3 percent if district voters agree May 20.

Although the proposed budget reflects an 8 percent overall increase in state aid, district Business Manager Anthony DiPace said he was hoping for clarification today about why the state budget cut all of the expected $157,714 in special “high-tax aid” typically reserved for lower-income districts. Repeated calls to state Education Department officials Monday left the reason unclear.

DiPace said he was hoping the last-minute change was an error, but excluded the special aid revenue from the budget adopted by a 5-0 vote of board members. The aid had been included in the budget proposed by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, but was eliminated in the final legislative budget, according to DiPace.

Sharon Springs was the only school district in Schoharie County not to qualify for the high-tax aid, said district Superintendent Patterson Green.

The aid is largely based on income data from the U.S. Census for district residents, but the district apparently ranked $12 below the average cost of a type of special education expense that was one of three criteria to qualify, according to DiPace.

If the aid does not come through, DiPace said, he plans to use reserve funds left in this year’s budget to keep the increase in the amount to be raised from taxes at 3 percent.

“That can mean a lot to a [small] district like Sharon Springs,” DiPace said.

“It seems like they moved the goal posts,” said board President Karen Cookson.

The proposed $8,120,356 budget is a 6.1 percent increase from the current 2007-2008 budget.

“The goal was to maintain the programs we have,” DiPace said. “The only real increases [in the overall budget] were in things we have no control over,” said Cookson.

Green said he was “very happy we could add a half-time math teacher,” which he said was needed to bolster student math Regents scores, the only subject area where students were not scoring above the state averages on Regents testing.

Contractual salary increases for staff reflects an average 4.1 percent increase, and includes the addition of a half-time math teacher requested by administrators and backed by a citizens budget advisory committee, according to officials. Salary increases include a raise for the superintendent from about $102,000 this year to $106,000 in the new budget, according to Green.

The largest percentage increase in budget categories was an additional 20 percent budgeted for the cost of fuel oil, diesel and gasoline price increases.

“I hope that’s enough,” said DiPace. The budget also includes a $20,000 allocation to continue an abbreviated basic academic after-school program, if a hoped for grant for a Cornell Cooperative Extension Service after-school program does not come through, Green said.

Health insurance for staff increased 15 percent in the budget, with other insurance rising 7.5 percent. Retirement benefit expenses rose by 10 percent.

A public hearing on the budget is set for 7:30 p.m. May 5 in the Sharon Springs Central School auditorium.

Categories: Schenectady County

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