BKW Board and district have been very frugal with community resources

To the Editor:
I am compelled to respond to recent erroneous social media posts from a former school board member regarding the Berne-Knox-Westerlo budget proposal. I simply want to set the record straight for those who want to be informed. 

One erroneous statement says that the board voted on the budget proposal at the outset of the meeting.This is a false statement. The board voted on a consent agenda and a personnel agenda before entering into the budget hearing.

Another statement infers the board did not listen and make suggested adjustments to the budget proposal at last week’s budget hearing. As a former board member, one should know that budget adoption and the budget hearing are two separate events in the New York state school budget timeline.

State law dictates the board adopt and report the Property Tax Report Card (the budget) to the State Education Department and the State Comptroller’s Office no later than 24 days ahead of the budget vote. This year that date was April 29. The Board adopted the BKW budget proposal on April 22, after having parts of four public meetings devoted to budget development.

The budget hearing is a legally noticed hearing to present the adopted proposal and answer clarifying questions from those in attendance. Law requires that it be held within 14 days before the budget vote. It was held on May 7.

The budget newsletter was completed on April 23 and sent to print to be ready to go out once the hearing was completed.The budget was adopted and a budget hearing was held in accordance with New York State law. Budget newsletters went out on Thursday, May 9.

The board listened to suggestions such as going line by line and looking at where reductions could be made. This has been an ongoing process at the public meetings since February.

Suggestions were made about reducing staffing. The budget proposal eliminates two teaching positions and one administrative position. Over the last three years, the district has eliminated a total of six teaching positions, four teacher assistant/aid positions, and a part-time clerical position.

These efforts in total controlled costs by roughly $750,000. The district will continue to make staffing reductions strategically to reflect declines in enrollment, while also ensuring the success of students.

On the issue of the purchase of the doctor’s office in 2022, the board anticipated a necessary capital project involving the current bus garage. The long-term plan is to coincide the work with the retirement of two bonds in 2025-26.

Additionally, the passage of legislation mandating transition to electric buses has expedited the urgency to move business office staff across the street and attend to a transportation facility that has the necessary electrical infrastructure for charging and the mechanical infrastructure to handle the weight of electric buses on lifts and in the maintenance bays. The electric bus law takes effect in 2027, when diesel vehicles will no longer be sold.

The facts on budget growth over 10 years are these:

— Year to year average growth: 1.85 percent;

— Average annual tax levy increase: .6 percent or 6/10 of 1 percent per year over 10 years;

— Our work as a board and administration has led to increased state aid resources from $9.3 million dollars to $11.83 million dollars;

— This year, due to the governor’s Foundation Aid agenda, we did not receive a Foundation Aid increase to compensate for inflation, amounting to a $212,0000 reduction, and creating a need to pierce the tax cap;

— Over the last 10 years, five years had either a flat tax levy or a tax reduction, and five years had tax-levy increases that total 6 percent over the 10-year period. Inflation over that 10-year period has been 27.11 percent;

— When the district was flush with cash, the board and administration gave tax reductions to the community.

The board and the district have been very frugal with community resources. For further budget information, please visit our website at https://www.bkwschools.org/budget-taxes/.

Prior to 2015, the district has responded to challenging situations, like the governor’s Foundation Aid ambitions, by slashing and burning programs. That did not work out well for students, nor for the community.

Support for this budget on Tuesday, May 21, will be support for the community and for the students. Spending is not out of control, it is 9 percent below the inflation rate for the last 10 years, and the tax levy is 21 percent below the total inflation rate for the same period. 

Thank you for your ongoing support. 

Dr. Timothy Mundell

Superintendent of Schools


Central School District

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