Proposed OCS budget pegs tax increase at 9 percent

By Jay Braman Jr.
Making it clear that it is still “just a draft,” Onteora Superintendent of Schools Dr. Leslie Ford outlined the proposed 2009-2010 budget for listeners in Shandaken Town Hall Monday. Ford and school board trustees have been on a district tour with the plan, going to town meetings to explain the spending plan and get feedback from residents. Following that process, Ford is scheduled to present her recommended budget on March 31, and the school board is scheduled to adopt a budget on April 22. Voters will weigh in on May 19.
Of the $50.1 million plan, the school district only has discretion over about four percent of the budget, Ford said. Her plan cuts funding for food services, facilities repair, eight jobs, elementary summer school and after school programs and raises the district tax levy by nine percent and assumes a $2 million appropriation from the district’s fund balance. Ford said the district anticipates about $600,000 over two years in federal stimulus money but has not factored that into the budget at this point because it is not clear whether it will come in time for the 2009-10 school year. If it does, she said, it will be used to offset the tax levy in 2009-10; if not, it will go toward the following year’s budget.
Spending under the proposal would increase close to the state-set austerity level of 3.97 percent. Should voters turn down a proposed budget, the school board could decide to hold another vote or put the austerity plan in place. An austerity plan does not need voter approval. It also becomes mandatory if the district fails to adopt a budget.