BKW super says he will reduce expenses without sacrificing programming

Enterprise file photo

Timothy Mundell, right, stands alongside members of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Board of Education who, from left, are Kimberly Lovell, Randy Bashwinger, and Nathan Elble.

HILLTOWNS — While the coronavirus has laid waste to business as usual, and has threatened the amount of money school districts can expect from the state, Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s superintendent, Timothy Mundell, is projecting a cautious confidence about the school’s 2020-21 budget.

“We have two objectives in this budget cycle,” Mundell told The Enterprise in an email, “1) provide the educational program our community has come to expect and that students deserve, and 2) recognize and support the community, given the current economic situation, by ensuring there will not be a school tax increase.” 

“We believe this is a difficult and unpredictable economic time for our community,” he said later in the email, “and the last thing we want is to have community members worried about a school tax increase.”  

BKW has a tax-cap this year of 2.45-percent, which Mundell said would net $265,000 “if we were to present a budget asking for that increase,” reiterating that it was not necessary.

In February, Mundell summarized 2020-21 appropriations as being approximately $123,000 higher than the current budget, which was adopted at about $23.9 million.

Mundell told The Enterprise, though, that because of new reductions, the district is expecting a budget proposal that is lower than its current budget.

Focusing on cost, Mundell said that expense reductions in his district “will be done tactically without elimination of primary core academic programming,” and that there won’t be any need to rely on fund balance, which he said is being used “strategically … for targeted expenses.” 

Mundell first introduced a summary of the budget at the school board’s February meeting, and the board would have continued discussion at a meeting on March 30, but that meeting was canceled. The next board meeting is scheduled for April 27. 

“At BKW,” Mundell said, “we have been focused on taking care of our students and families first. Food, childcare options, and home learning have occupied our time over the past three weeks … Anticipating the finalized NYS budget on April 1, the meeting was postponed in order to analyze any changes in state aid from the Governor’s January proposal.” 

That final state budget, Mundell said, “froze” the school’s foundation aid at its 2019-20 amount, which was just under $6.5 million. Total state aid for the 2019-20 school year was estimated at just under $10.4 million

“The State budget also calls for three ‘look back’ periods to allow state officials to determine aid payments to schools based on available revenue,” Mundell said. “We remain concerned for reductions in aid at each of those ‘look back’ points, and must be prepared to absorb those reductions should they occur.” 

Typically, New Yorkers vote on school budgets on the third Tuesday in May, concurrent with the school board elections, but, given the circumstances, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the date will be moved to June 1 or later, but an official deadline has not yet been established.

“Since the budget vote and Board election have been postponed, without a clear date in the future” Mundell said, “we have adjusted our timeline as well. I will be working with the Board to establish a revised meeting schedule to accommodate this unusual circumstance, and to finalize the budget for adoption.” ​

More Hilltowns News

  • Over his nine-plus years as Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s superintendent, Timothy Mundell has led the district through significant challenges, helping to establish a much stronger foundation for the next superintendent than he had coming in. 

  • ALBANY COUNTY — On May 18, musician Wally Jones will perform at the Gallupville Methodist Church,

  • Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s proposed budget, with a 5.09 percent tax increase that required it to be passed with a 60-percent approval rate, failed to reach that threshold by a mere eight votes. The district will have to decide whether to have residents vote on a new budget in June, or move directly to a contingency budget. 

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