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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 16, 2009

BKW school board approves $19.8-million budget proposal

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — On May 19, Berne-Knox-Westerlo residents will vote on a $19.8-million budget that will not raise the tax levy.

Last week, the school board unanimously approved a budget for the 2009-10 school year that will see a $556,479 decrease from the current $20.3-million budget.

Staff reductions account for part of those savings. Four retiring teachers will not be replaced, and a librarian’s job is being cut.

State aid that the governor had threatened to cut — $705,643 — was restored by the federal stimulus package. About $8.5 million of BKW’s revenue will come from state aid, and about $10 million will come from property taxes.

“Health insurance remains a concern,” Business Administrator Timothy Holmes said at last week’s school board meeting.

The amount appropriated towards employee benefits will increase by $335,232 next year, bringing it up to $5,300,621. Of that amount, $3,627,493 will go toward health insurance, while the rest will go toward Social Security, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and teachers’ retirement costs.

Another concern is the School TAx Relief (STAR) program, said Helen Lounsbury, president of the school board, this week. “It’s quite possible, even though we are not increasing the tax levy, that taxpayers may see an increase in their taxes that’s not connected with the school.”

The middle-class STAR rebate will be cut, but not the STAR exemption. [See related story.]

Current tax rates for the towns served by the BKW district, besides Westerlo, range from $29.70 per $1,000 of assessed value in Rensselaerville, to $16.44 per $1,000 of assessed value in New Scotland. The tax rate in Westerlo, a town that has not been revalued in decades, is at $1,980.24 per $1,000 of assessed value.

More than $400,000 will be saved in salary and benefit costs due to the retirement of teachers Susan Bogdan-Ritty, Donald Dennis, William Sossei, and David McLaughlin, who will not be replaced. Also, the position of elementary school librarian, currently filled by Karen Canfield, will be eliminated in the coming school year.

Starting this summer, the district’s summer school program will also be eliminated, saving the district close to $70,000. The freshman boys’ basketball team will also be cut, along with the Arts and Education program, which brought artists and authors to BKW to hold workshops with students.

The biggest chunk of the budget, $10,103,291, will go toward instruction, which is $589,225 less than last year. This includes teachers’ salaries, substitute teachers’ salaries, materials and supplies for the students, tuition for BKW students placed in other districts by the Department of Social Services, and Board of Cooperative Extension Services like alternative and special education.

About $2.7 million of next year’s budget will go toward educating the district’s special-education students, who make up about one-fifth of the students at BKW.

By bringing 10 special education students, normally bused out of the district, back into district classrooms, BKW will save an estimated $64,000. The district will establish two new special education programs — one in the high school, and one in the middle school.

In addition to these 10 students, Assistant Superintendent Kim LaBelle told The Enterprise last month, the district intends to bring in a minimum of seven “high-needs” students, or students with multiple disabilities. Superintendent Steve Schrade said that these students could cost the district $80,000 to $90,000 each, though, for every student that costs the district more than $28,000 to educate, the district receives reimbursement from the state of New York to cover the remainder. [For the full story, go to www.altamontenterprise.com, under Hilltowns archives for March 26, 2009.]

The total cost for pupil transportation is at $1,583,068 in next year’s budget, $156,911 less than this year’s cost. Additionally, a total of $1,972,449 has been appropriated for general support, down $59,099 from this year.

Before the vote on May 19, district residents can view the entire 2009-10 budget draft at www.bkwcsd.k12.ny.us/Budget/Budget0910.htm.

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