BKW eyeing $24 million budget and slight tax decrease for 2021-22

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s recently completed capital project, which upgraded classrooms, will allow the district to cover any additional losses in state aid, Superintendent Timothy Mundell said at the school board’s Feb. 22 meeting.

HILLTOWNS — Though still early in the budget process, the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School District is in good fiscal standing for the 2021-22 school year, with the completion of the district’s $19.8 million capital project yielding excess money that will lower the tax levy by 0.7 percent while allowing projected expenses to increase by approximately $560,000, for a total of $24 million. 
The district filed the final cost reports for the project — which was approved by voters in 2017, and has provided students with modernized classrooms — on Feb. 19, about a week ahead of schedule.

“I want to remind the taxpayers that ... at the outset of this process, we outlined an impact to taxpayers of this $19.8 million project to be about $65 over the life of the 15-year bond that would fund the project,” Mundell said at the meeting. “And we framed that as a dollar a month for the first 65 months. As we put all this effort into putting together this documentation and analyzing the costs and what those costs were for, and putting them in the right place … what we realized is that that $65 impact is going to go away.”

Mundell explained that low interest rates, “strategic bonding,” and the fact that some costs were covered by the district’s general fund ultimately left an extra $1.1 million that can be used for either new projects or to supplement funding in a time when the coronavirus pandemic has left state aid in the lurch. 

“So not only will the taxpayers realize zero impact dollarwise to the tax rate due to this project,” Mundell said, “but we have monies left in the account that we can use to further plan future projects, or make our way through this pandemic environment not knowing fully what the state aid yield is going to be in terms of how the governor structures budgets in years to come.” 

The district is anticipating $666,000 less in aid from the state, which is reducing its School Tax Relief [STAR] payments to districts, though Mundell stated that the federal government’s December stimulus package, which provided $54 billion to K-12 schools nationwide, will help cover that deficit, and acknowledged that the new $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal, which contains $170 billion for K-12 schools and colleges, may provide even more relief.

“I think the question there we need to keep our minds on … is what will New York State do when that federal money runs out in ’22-23?” Mundell said. “If the state government is ready then to put the $666K back in and make us whole, that’s good for everybody. If they’re not ready to do that because their revenues aren’t meeting the projections they have … we certainly cannot fill that kind of money with the tax levy, so we need to keep that question in our mind.”



District taxpayers will vote on the budget on May 18, at the same time they vote for school board candidates, and significant changes may occur within the budget before it’s put up to a vote, but Mundell provided a general breakdown of the projected expenses and revenues at the school board’s February meeting.

The expense categories and their value are as follows:

— Central administration: $2,268,045

— Instruction: $11,024,844

— Transportation: $1,581,119

— Employee benefits, etc: $9,128,984

Projected revenue totals $24,485,051 so far for the 2021-22 year, and is broken down as follows:

— Tax levy: $9,814,164

— State aid: $12,424,887

— Drug prescription rebates: $340,000

— Transportation reserve: $150,000

— Employee benefits reserve: $200,000

— Retirement reserve: $100,000

— Miscellaneous: $156,000

— Appropriated fund balance: $1,300,000


Tax rates

The district’s current tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value, rounded to the nearest hundredth, is $31.10 in Berne; $32.29 in Knox; $1,865.86 in Westerlo, where a townwide property revaluation hasn’t been conducted in decades; $18.45 in New Scotland; $25.54 in Middleburgh; $23.00 in Wright; and $29.88 in Rensselaerville.

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