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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 9, 2010

BKW budget committee is taking shape

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — While most roles on Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s new budget advisory committee have been filled, there are currently two vacancies: one to be filled by a district resident, and one by a district employee.

Throughout the budget process this past spring, residents cried out against the proposed 6.7-percent tax hike, along with the program cuts in the primary and secondary school, and the elimination of 19 staff positions. The board, faced with stagnant property values and massive cuts in state aid, paired with rising pensions and health-care costs, would have had to hike taxes nearly 20 percent if cuts hadn’t been made.

In May, the proposed budget was defeated by district voters, 644 to 522. School board members have acknowledged at recent meetings that communication must be improved among the administration, the district, and the taxpayers to pave the way for a smoother budget process.

To do so, the school board has revised the charter for the district’s budget committee. Its top priorities this year will be acting as public representatives at budget meetings with the school board, communicating with the greater district on the progression of the budget process, and clarifying for the public any information related to budgeting.

The budget committee is to be composed of: Two members of the school board; two district employees; the district business official; the district superintendent; and six community members, with balanced membership among the towns served by the district.

“They wanted their community members to have some sort of finance or accounting background,” Superintendent Paul Dorward said this week of the school board’s choosing the committee members. “I met with the prospective members just to get a feel for their knowledge base in that area, but all of them had something that fell into that background.”

The five community members appointed to the board last week were:

— Joseph Golden, a Berne Town Board member, retired teacher, former BKW School Board member, and brother of school board member Helen Lounsbury;

— Edward Ackroyd, also a former school board member, and a BKW graduate;

— Vasilios Lefkaditis, a member of the district’s previous budget committee;

— Maureen Abbott, a programming analyst for accounting software; and

— Christopher Curvin, who trades preferred stocks and corporate bonds.

Joann Rupeka, a bus driver, fills one of the two spots for district employees on the committee; Business Official Kevin Callagy and Superintendent Dorward will sit on the committee as well.

Abbott and Curvin are newcomers to district business.

“After the budget crisis of last year, I was just curious about how the process works,” Abbott told The Enterprise this week, “and I had questions about what are the things that go into the budget that we really have some control over, rather than things that are mandated by the state and controlled by the teachers union and contracts. So, what better way to find those things out than to be involved in the budget committee?”

Abbott has degrees in accounting and computer programming.

Curvin hopes to get some education on the process as well.

“I have two girls in the district, and I definitely want to see the district succeed,” said Curvin. “Also, in my role as a taxpayer, I certainly have a vested interest in seeing that money spent wisely. I don’t know how much — if any — control I’ll have over that. The only exposure I’ve had to the budget process is the frenzied attempts at meetings and things like that, when the budget was just around the corner. So, I just want to educate myself a little more on how the process works.”

Terms for committee members will be two years, beginning on July 1, and ending June 30. Some of this year’s members will serve a one-year term, so that terms of future members will be staggered. School Board President Maureen Sikule said this week that the members to initially serve one-year terms will be chosen by lottery at this year’s first budget meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.

The school board agreed that members initially serving a one-year term should have the option of then serving an additional two-year term, so as to help with the learning curve; this was added to the charter before the vote at last week’s meeting.


Also at the Aug. 30 meeting, the school board made the following appointments:

— Denise Robinson as district clerk;

— Renee Sherwin as a keyboard specialist;

— Amanda Malfer as a part-time biology teacher;

— Justin Maleszweski as a part-time math teacher;

— Jill Daviero as a part-time family consumer science teacher;

— Ben Beliveau as a technology teacher;

— Meri-Beth Spring as a special-education teacher;

— Richard Holoday as a physical education teacher; and

— Karen Rogotske as a part-time English teacher.

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