School districts vote on budgets Tuesday
By Julia Green
Voters in the Andes, Margaretville and Roxbury central school districts will vote to approve proposed budgets for the 2009-2010 school year on Tuesday, May 19.
Andes Central School
Voters in the Andes Central School District will have the opportunity to approve the proposed 2009-2010 school budget in the May 19 election, which will be held from 12 to 8 p.m. in the fitness room located in the technology building at ACS.
The bottom-line figure of $3,673,609 represents an increase of $46,561 from last year’s budget – a 1.28 percent increase, which projects to be a 2.97 percent tax levy increase.
“It’s a very tight budget, a very frugal budget,” said ACS Superintendent John Bernhardt. “The original budget that the board considered prior to stimulus money discussions showed a decrease of over two percent in the budget, and in that original budget we were trying to accommodate a pending $77,000 one-time deficit reduction. With the stimulus money, that has been potentially wiped away.”
Bernhardt said that while they are not yet certain what that money may be used for, the school board has targeted the use of the funds for building repair issues.
“The board is committed to keeping the tax levy below three percent,” Bernhardt said. “So it’s a really tight budget – the program part of the budget actually decreased by $95,905 dollars, which represents a 3.34 percent decrease.”
Andes voters will also be asked to approve a resolution to purchase two 20-passenger buses at a cost of $44,514 per bus for a total cost of $89,028. The school currently has $38,467 in a bus reserve fund.
“We’re asking voters to use that reserve to offset the cost of these purchases and we would be five-year bonding for the remainder of the money.”
Another proposition that will come before voters is one that requests that they release $115,000 from the building repair reserve for additional improvements to the building.
“Hopefully, if everything goes through, we’ll have just about a quarter-of-a-million dollars in the budget that would target repairs,” Bernhardt said. “I think that’s critical. We have an aging building that has never really had a major reconstruction and it needs attention. To do that and keep the projected tax levy increase below three percent would be, I think, a significant accomplishment for the district.”
Andes voters will also have the opportunity to re-elect Dale Tait to the board of education. Tait is running unopposed to keep his seat, which he acquired, following the resignation of a former board member. If elected, this would be his first full term.
Margaretville Central School
The proposed 2009-2010 Margaretville Central School District budget will be presented for voter approval at the annual election on Tuesday, May 19, in the MCS cafeteria. All residents of the Margaretville Central School District are eligible to participate in the vote, which will take place from 2 to 8 p.m.
“I think we have a very positive budget for our students, hopefully one that also supports our community,” said MCS Superintendent Tony Albanese. “Right now we’re at a 1.49 percent tax levy increase, which is substantially lower than past years.”
The proposed budget is $10,588,958, which represents an $84,080 decrease (-.79 percent) from than last year’s approved budget and would be financed by that 1.49 percent increase in the tax levy.
In a letter mailed to school district residents, Albanese said that the budget was developed “to correspond with maintaining or strengthening our school program for our students and being mindful of current economic events,” and added that the best interests of the students, parents and community were taken into consideration in evaluating decisions and their outcomes.
Factors affecting this year’s school budgets include a two-year freeze of Foundation Aid and predicted substantial increases in both the Teacher’s and Employee’s Retirement Systems next year; as a result, the proposed budget is positioned with the support of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to meet those challenges without loss of programs or personnel.
“We’ve not needed to lay off any staff, which we’re pleased about,” Albanese said. “And we’re also looking at filling some of our vacancies from teachers retiring with some quality people coming in, as well.”
Voters will also be asked to approve a separate proposition to purchase one 48-passenger bus, which would involve an expenditure “not to exceed $93,000,” which will not affect the tax levy.
Also on the voting ballot May 19 is a seat on the Margaretville Central School Board of Education. Steven Tanzer was expected to appear on the ballot for the five-year board seat being vacated by current Board President Lee Austin, who is not seeking re-election, but Tanzer withdrew his name from the ballot on Monday.
“I rescinded my name because of potential legal issues with the board,” Tanzer said on Tuesday. A letter he read before members of the Margaretville PTA on Monday night withdrawing his name can be found on page 3A.
Joe Moskowitz, who owns Casey Joe’s Coffeehouse in Arkville and was planning to run as a write-in candidate, was expected to submit a petition to appear on the ballot on Tuesday. Moskowitz has a daughter enrolled at MCS.
Roxbury Central School
The vote to approve the 2009-2010 Roxbury Central School District budget will be held Tuesday from 3 to 9 p.m. in the RCS cafetorium.
“We presented the lowest possible budget that we can with the understanding that we are in a time of fiscal struggle,” O’Brien said. “The board made a commitment to be as frugal and as fiscally conservative as possible.”
The proposed budget for the coming year is $9,427,761, which represents a roughly $45,000 increase over the budget approved by voters last year.
“Basically, we’re at .48 with a proposed levy increase of .21 for the Town of Roxbury,” said RCS Superintendent Tom O’Brien. “And the statewide average is 1.89 percent, so we’re far below the state average.”
In addition to approval of the budget itself, voters will be presented with two propositions on Tuesday: the first, to approve fund balance to contribute the $50,000 contribution to the capital reserve fund to replace the school’s roof; and the second, a continued request of $10,000 to fund the repair reserve, which goes toward unforeseen building repairs. Neither request will impact the tax levy, as both efforts will be funded through available monies from the 2008-09 budget.
“We have a strong enough fund balance that we’re not going to ask the taxpayers to fund that [$50,000 annual portion to the capital reserve fund],” O’Brien said. “We still have to ask to take that money and set it aside, but we can do that without increasing taxes. The other money, for unforeseen repairs, we have never requested an increase in that – this year it will continue, all we need is just approval to put it in the account.
“Neither of the separate propositions – the budget is a request for a levy increase of .21 – but the other two, we’re not asking for any more money.”
The budget also reflects a reduction of two staff positions, which were vacated by retirees and which the school board opted not to fill.
“We’re utilizing staff as effectively as possible while providing the quality education our students need,” O’Brien added. “There’s a balance between fiscal accountability and being fiscally responsibility and making sure that you have the least impact on the educational program you can possibly have.”
Also on the Roxbury ballot will be Bonnie Walker, who is seeking to fill the seat on the board of education vacated by Phillip Zorda, who is stepping down from the board after serving for 12 years. Walker, who has previous experience on the RCS Board of Education, is running uncontested for the five-year term.