Press-Republican

May 10, 2013

Keene Central levy up 3.5 percent

By ALVIN REINER
Press-Republican

---- — KEENE VALLEY — Keene Central School’s proposed 2013-14 budget sits at $5,564,347 and calls for a 3.5 percent increase in the tax levy.

The budget total is up 4.07 percent over this year.

The total estimated school tax levy is $4,626,542, up $156,615 from this year. The increase is under the allowed cap under the state formula.

EXTRA AID HELPED

The district has a total assessed value of $522,150,117, according to figures cited Aug. 31, 2012.

Superintendent Cynthia Ford-Johnston said that early in the budgetary process “the fiscal picture appeared to be bleak for Keene Central School.”

Based on the governor’s original proposal for state aid, “the gap faced by the district would have necessitated cuts in programs and staff,” she said.

“Once the state budget and all costs were finalized, the spending plan came together well. Student needs will be met, programs will remain intact, and the district can remain below the tax-cap limits for one more year.”

COSTS INCREASES

Areas of substantial increases in costs include pension expenditures for both teaching and non-instructional staff, more students wanting to attend CV-TEC programs and curriculum work associated with national Common Core changes.

Some new budgetary items include safety and security improvements, maintenance and repairs to carry the district through the next five years.

SHARED SERVICES

“Talks continue between districts as to what might be shared or streamlined to improve opportunities for our students and/or decrease cost,” Ford-Johnston said.

“These discussions and the resulting changes will continue. The long-term sustainability of our district depends on the success of these efforts.

“I encourage everyone who cares about the future of KCS and education in our region to become an active participation in these talks.”

Cost-saving measures that have already been implemented include sharing the cafeteria manager and physics teacher with Schroon Lake and exchanging special-needs students with Elizabethtown-Lewis.

Ford-Johnston said the district will save money through an anticipated retirement and will also see an increase in state aid.

LEAN BUDGET

“Keene offers a rich, challenging and well-rounded program. The support and infrastructure are sufficient but remain lean. Every expense is scrutinized and compared to others to determine if it is necessary.

“This budget supports programs consistent with those of prior years. Employee agreements for health-insurance changes continue to save the district from increased cost for a second year. No large purchases are planned for the coming year.

“Under this spending plan, our school will operate and provide programs that mirror this year,” said Ford-Johnston.

In a district newsletter, School Board President James Marlatt said that in preparing the budget, they were reminded of “the challenges we all faced this year and will continue to face in the years to come. The school administration persistently evaluates educational and support functions, focused on providing an enhanced educational environment, while striving for an appropriate level of cost.”

He is not seeking re-election, but incumbent Ann Whitney, John Haverlick and Heather O’Dell are contending for two positions on the School Board. 

A hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, May 13, at the school.

The vote is noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, at the school.

Email Alvin Reiner:rondackrambler@yahoo.com