Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 17 to decide a range of school district issues: the proposed 2011-12 budget, bond propositions to fund building renovations and a new emergency power generator, and whether or not to create a capital reserve fund for Project FIT. There are also three school board positions to fill.
The Reporter began reviewing each of these choices in the April 28 issue. This week, the topic is the 2011-2012 budget, “Proposition 1” on the ballot.
The school is asking voters to approve a $9,640,614 budget for the 2011-2012 school year, a 0.97 percent increase (about $92,635) over the current year’s budget. That would translate to a projected tax levy of $8,727,224, a 1.45 percent increase or about $125,000 over the current year’s tax levy.
That would result in a tentative tax rate of $2.8474 for each $1,000 of assessed value, according to the Town Assessor’s office. In other words, a person whose property is assessed at $500,000 would pay $1,423.70 in school taxes.
The budget vote is May 17 in the school gymnasium from noon to 9 p.m.
Al Hammond, the chair of the Board of Assessors, said property owners with questions about the effect on their tax bills may call the assessors office at 749-1080.
If voters reject the proposed budget, state law requires that a district adopt a contingency budget. The contingency budget is calculated according to a formula that typically increases the previous year’s budget by a small percentage. Applying that formula, this year’s contingency budget would be higher than the budget proposed by the board, a situation that is not allowed by state law. As a result, the district has had to revert to a contingency budget that removes non-instructional equipment expenses (such as maintenance equipment) and cuts out increases for non-union employees.
The 2011-2012 contingency budget is $9,612,965, about $28,000 less than the proposed budget. This is the third year in a row that the board has proposed a budget so low that the contingency budget had to be calculated this way.
The board arrived at its budget proposal after a series of workshops starting in February. One of the biggest cuts made was the elimination of the librarian, Christine Miller’s position, and the reduction of three teaching positions from full time to 60 percent: those of Business Education teacher Katherine Doroski, Mathematics 7-12 instructor Audrey Pedersen and Family & Consumer Science and Home Economics teacher Roni Siller. That eliminated about $250,000 from the budget.
During Monday night’s public hearing on budget meeting, board President Rebecca Mundy argued that “it supports all of our programmatic needs and doesn’t reduce or eliminate the services to our students … We needed to be as fiscally responsible as possible in this economic climate.”
The district also cut $66,000 in costs for sending students to another district and $16,000 from the Arts and Education program line, which now has less than $4,000 to provide programs such as assemblies that provide cultural experiences.
The district has budgeted about $230,000 to complete modest capital improvements: the installation of a handicapped accessible exterior door in the elementary school, installation of new bleachers in the school gym, refinishing and painting the gym floor, repaving the parking lot and installation of a welding safety hood in the technology classroom. The demolition of the Project FIT space that will take place this spring will be funded through reserves, not new taxes, as will the construction of its replacement.
The $230,000 for capital improvements would be partially offset by the $206,200 that is no longer required for debt service because school paid off its last installment of a 1991 bond, Mr. Schneider said during a March 14 budget workshop. He said the $230,000 figure was a rough estimate of the average payment over the past 20 years.
The district was facing a tough budget season this year, according to interim Superintendent Robert Parry. During the April 11 budget workshop, he said: “With the increases in health insurance, the increases in the … retirement system contributions and with the step increases already built into the teacher contracts … those factors alone created a tax levy increase of 4.4 or 4.5 percent.”
The district also saw a $34,445 drop in state aid, from $472,835 to $438,390.