ESSEX COUNTY - Area schools will soon be seeking public response to their proposed budgets for the 2009-2010 school year.
School representatives all emphasized the difficult year for school budget planning, mostly because of large cuts in state aid originally proposed by Gov. David Paterson. Federal stimulus money helped minimize the cuts, but many schools still experienced either flat or reduced state aid.
Here is a summary of the budgets and their anticipated effect on property taxes.
At their April 7 meeting, the AVCS Board of Education unanimously approved a spending plan of $26,368,086. The proposed plan represents an increase of $394,583, or 1.52 percent compared to the current budget.
The estimated tax levy increase is $302,041, or 2.9 percent over this year. School superintendent Paul Savage said he is pleased with the proposal as one that is "both educationally and fiscally sound for our schools and communities." "We were able to accomplish the modest increase in the budget and tax levy by staff reductions through attrition, leaves of absence, no overall increase in supplies, consolidation of transportation services, and a long-range plan for monitoring and reducing overall spending," Savage added.
The annual budget presentation is scheduled for May 12, 6:30 p.m. in the middle-high school auditorium.
As a response to reduction in state aid, Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School Board of Education approved a proposed budget of $7,599,985, a reduction of 1.56 percent compared to this year.
The tax levy will see no change, as long as assessments remain consistent with those surveyed in August 2008. Superintendent Gail Else called the budget a responsible move.
"It helps us to maintain the programs we have been offering here at school," she said, "and we won't be short-suiting anyone."
A hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for May 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the school's conference room. Voting on the budget will take place from noon to 8 p.m. on May 19. Absentee ballots are available by request at the office.
The spending plan for Keene Central School district is proposed at $5,176,616 for 2009-2010, an increase of $57,464 or 1.12 percent over the current year.
The tax levy will increase by $31,436, or 0.75 percent. Meanwhile, the projected enrollment for next year is expected to increase by approximately three percent.
"We know that maintaining the program of the district is a top priority," said superintendent Cynthia Ford-Johnston, "but also maintaining our current levels of spending." She said retirements and shifts in staffing contributed to the minimal increase.
The annual public hearing for the school budget is scheduled for May 12 at 7 p.m. Voting on the budget will take place May 19.
Westport Central School's proposed budget includes a spending plan of $5,074,606. That represents an 1.89 percent increase of $94,365.
Coupled with just a $4,984 increase in anticipated revenue, the tax levy will bear most of the burden with an increase of $89,381 projected. That's 3.20 percent more than the current budget. Enrollment levels are expected to remain stable.
"It was extremely difficult to bring it down to the level we finally got it down to," said interim superintendent John Gallagher, noting a sharp reduction in state aid. "We trimmed this budget without trimming any programs."
A public budget hearing was held May 7. Voting on the budget is scheduled from noon to 9 p.m. on May 19.
The 2009-2010 proposed budget for Willsboro totals $7,969,502 in spending, a 2.99 percent increase of $231,062. Despite the increase in spending, the tax levy is projected to decrease slightly by 0.06 percent.
"The district worked hard to maintain district costs while maintaining quality educational opportunities for student achievement," said superintendent Steve Broadwell. "Proposed is a reduction of one-half a music position and, based on current increasing enrollment, expanding our pre-kindergarten to two sections with the additional federal stimulus money allocated to our district for job retention."
A public hearing for the budget is scheduled at 7 p.m. on May 12. Voting will take place on May 19 from noon to 8 p.m.