Schoharie County

Middleburgh board chips away at budget in hopes of voters’ approval

Field trips, an auditor, energy conservation and transportation are areas that would lose funding fo

Field trips, an auditor, energy conservation and transportation are areas that would lose funding for 2013-14 under a new spending proposal to be presented to Middleburgh School District voters.

Residents rejected the district’s initial $20,277,789 budget by a vote of 374-399 on May 21, setting up a new vote now scheduled for June 18.

The Board of Education cut the initial 3.92 percent tax levy increase down to 2.68 percent by eliminating $88,000 in spending, whittling the revised budget proposal to $20,189,789.

Superintendent Michele Weaver said the new spending plan represents an increase of $39,000 over the current budget, or 0.02 percent.

Both the rejected budget and the revised spending plan are within the state-imposed tax levy cap.

Weaver said cuts were made in several areas to come up with the savings: A full-time cleaner job was cut down to just more than a half-time position; one bus mechanic will now double as a bus driver; and the district will do without an internal auditor — a position no longer mandated by the state — during the next fiscal year.

Other positions will be reduced from full-time to part-time, including a physical education job, a literacy/reading specialist and the combined full-time equivalent of one teaching staffer.

The district will have to cut $12,000 out of a line that pays for energy conservation contracts. This will mean fewer checkups on heating and cooling systems or other changes to bring the contract costs down.

The district’s Athletics Department will have to find $15,000 in cuts during the school year if voters approve the revised budget. It could mean no new equipment purchases, only one modified boys’ basketball section or other as-yet-undetermined changes.

“We will nickel and dime to come up with $15,000 in athletics cuts,” Weaver said.

With a slim margin of 25 votes defeating the initial proposal, Weaver said she suspects voters were complacent and fewer than normal turned out to cast a ballot.

“I think what happens is if people feel it’s going to be passed easily … the necessity to get out and vote may not be as strong,” she said.

The Board of Education decided to make $88,000 of its own cuts in the hopes of avoiding more than $344,000 in mandatory cuts that would come from an automatic contingency budget if voters reject the budget a second time.

“We can’t take a chance on going to contingency,” Weaver said.

Other cuts proposed for the new budget include $7,000 less in the district’s “available funds” line used during union contract negotiations; $16,750 for extracurricular activities; and eliminating curriculum coordination assistance from the regional BOCES.

A public hearing on the new budget plan will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 6, in the high school library.

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