ELLENBURG CORNERS -- With a tax-levy increase of 1.49 percent and a decreased tax rate, Northern Adirondack Central School's 2007-08 budget will expand a reading program, replace 50 desktop computers and equip a science lab.

"We tried to look at the academic programs and how to enrich them in ways that would not impact the local taxpayer," said Superintendent of Schools William Scott.

The proposed budget totals $16,924,628, with a tax levy of about $3.98 million, compared to this year's $3.92 million.

The spending plan was crafted using an estimated 3-percent increase in total assessment, said NACS Business Manager Brian Tousignant, but recent figures show the jump will be more like 5 or 6 percent.

That, he said, will drop the estimated tax rate of $12.17 per $1,000 assessed property value perhaps 50 cents.

As it stands now, the $12.17 rate per $1,000 represents a decrease of $1.31 over 2006-07, a drop of 9.74 percent.

A fund balance of about $340,000 will remain after using $725,000 toward the new budget.

REVENUE, STATE AID

While NAC will benefit at some point from payments in lieu of taxes from a wind-energy park in the district, Scott said, no estimates were forthcoming as the budget was being crafted.

So the School Board took a conservative approach, he said.

NAC expects about $600,000 more in state aid next year.

"I'll compliment Senator (Betty) Little, Assemblywoman (Janet) Duprey, the governor and everybody," said Scott. "That money helps."

The almost-timely state budget, he added, "allowed us with confidence to do some planning that really positively impacts the students."

READING PROGRAM

That includes kindergarten and fourth-grade textbooks at a cost of $35,000 for the reading program, which began this year with grades 1, 2 and 3.

The series -- which includes three levels within each grade for children who are struggling, on track and advanced -- builds upon itself year by year.

Next year, grade 5 will be incorporated, Scott said.

As well, about $17,000 will be spent on textbooks to reinstate a structured reading program for sixth-graders.

"We analyzed the test scores over the last few years," said Scott. "Fairly similar to other schools, especially at the middle-school level, scores were lower than we wanted to see."

SCIENCE LAB

The science lab, which will be located in a former art room at the Elementary School, will cost about $30,000.

It will better prepare elementary students for science in middle/high, the superintendent said.

"And rather than looking at a picture of an amoeba in a book, they can actually experience it first-hand with a microscope."

UPGRADES

The state lets a School District spend up to $100,000 before requiring a capital project, said Scott. And for the second year, that's how NACS will spruce up facilities.

This year, flooring was replaced in three elementary classrooms and renovation was done to the crawl space under that wing of the building to eliminate moisture issues.

Planned for 2007-08 is work in the High School, with replacement of a wall between the gym and locker room, repair of roof sections and new flooring in one corridor.

Total operation and maintenance, including preventive work, such as seal-coating the parking lots, is $1,292,454, up from $1,185,541 this year.

Instructional salaries total $5,058,990, up 3.17 percent over this year.

TECHNOLOGY

Budgeted for the 50 new computers and software is about $77,000; half will be installed in the Middle/High and the rest in the Elementary School.

With state and federal funding, the district will, this summer, tie in to Northeast Regional Information Center broadband Internet service.

"During our project five years ago, we installed fiber," Scott said. "The problem is it only went out to Route 11, then it was copper.

"It really slowed us down."

Broadband will increase Internet speed and clarity and boost access to educational aids.

And there's a plan in the works to eventually offer remote Plattsburgh State classes at NACS to adults and students.

The annual fee for broadband is $23,958, but aid will cover all but $3,170 of that cost.

BUS PURCHASE

The budget vote is Tuesday, May 15, when voters will also act on a proposition to buy three 66-passenger buses at a cost not to exceed $254,407, which would be reimbursed at about 88 percent by the state.

smoore@pressrepublican

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