BKW board adopts $24M budget featuring 2-percent tax decrease

HILLTOWNS — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo Board of Education has adopted Superintendent Timothy Mundell’s proposed $23.7 million budget, which features a 2-percent tax-levy decrease and increased spending on instruction.

The budget was adopted by a unanimous vote at the board’s April 19 meeting.

Next, it has to pass a vote by district residents, who will cast their ballots on May 18. They will also vote on school board candidate Lisa Joslin, who is running unopposed for Randy Bashwinger’s seat, and on a purchase proposition for three 72-passenger buses and two 28-passenger buses. 

The adopted budget’s tax levy of $10,779,562 is the second-lowest in the last 10 years, the lowest being $10,681,901 for the 2011-12 school year, according to a chart Mundell presented at the meeting.

The district’s 10-year high stood at $11,110,338 for the 2019-20 school year. 

Under the current levy of $11,019,553, 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.

Mundell said that this year’s tax decrease is allowed by an increase in Foundation Aid, which is being expanded by $1.4 billion this year as the state moves toward fully funding court-required support by 2023.

That increase brings BKW an additional $194,000 this year, but Mundell cautioned that subsequent increases to the program’s value may not benefit the district.

“I’ll remind the community that we are overfunded in Foundation Aid, and the formula over the next three years may not yield any additional dollars.”

The district will also receive $1,588,425 through the federal American Rescue Plan, with four years to spend it in accordance with federal guidelines. 

“It will be used to supplement … not supplant,” Mundell said, adding that the money will be placed in a Special Aids fund, as opposed to the general fund. 

According to the law, 20 percent of the funding must be used to address “learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs, and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs ….”

The remaining 80 percent can be put toward uses authorized by existing federal laws such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as guidelines included in the American Rescue Plan Act that focus on the well-being of underprivileged students and health and emergency protocols.

 

Expenses

The district’s 2021-22 proposed budget totals $23,672,248, which is up roughly 1 percent from the current budget. That reflects increases in the instruction, transportation, and central administration categories.

Instruction will receive the greatest increase — approximately 5 percent from last year for a total of $11,234,215 in 2021-22.

“A good portion of that is having to budget for additional out-of-district placement students … and the rest is salaries,” Mundell said. 

“When we talk about being student-centered as a core value and aiming to prepare kids for life after high school, putting money where it’s going to yield those results is important,” Mundell said later in his presentation. “Budgets reflect our values.”

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