The Whitehall Central School Board of Education is proposing school budget with zero increases for the 2009-2010 school year, the board announced on Monday.
At their regularly scheduled meeting, the board voted to adopt the proposed budget of $13,656,521, the same as last year’s budget.
“The direction that we received from the board concerning the current economics and that state of the economy was clear,” said school superintendent James Watson in presenting the spending plan. “What we are proposing tonight is the same budget figure that you had one year ago.”
Revenues would also remain even, with the school planning to lose a total of $55,500 in state aid, adding that amount to the expended fund balance to leave the overall amount to be raised by taxes at $4,829,164 – the same as last year as well.
While Watson said that he and school business manager Jodi Bradshaw had crunched the numbers to their best ability, they were still uncertain what the state would do.
“I can’t sit here tonight and tell you exactly where we will be with state aid and revenue,” said Watson. “The increase that we are receiving in state aid is coming from our Capital Project.”
Watson said that because of the way the school set up their reimbursement schedule for the school projects, they would be benefiting.
“We are reaping the reward of front-loading our share of the costs,” said Watson.
Watson said that the ability to keep the budget number even for the coming year was due in large part to the cuts that had been made over the past two months.
“We have cut a number of positions,” said Watson. “Overall, there was $395,000 in terms of savings and cost cutting.”
Watson also said that the school had eliminated $100,910 out of the transportation budget that would have been set aside for the latter purchase of new school buses, but that the school would be presenting a proposition to the voting public for the purchase of two buses, not to exceed $184,000.
“This would have no impact on the tax base,” said Watson. “We would be using a planned balance for that.”
Watson also said that the voters would be asked to vote on the annual proposition to support the Isaac Griswold Library at a cost of $15,000, an increase of 0.31-percent to the tax levy.
“We’ve cut bodies at the school this year,” said Watson. “To arbitrarily put $15,000 into the budget was not prudent, I felt, until talking to the board and getting your prerogative. We don’t absorb the tax increase through the school taxes. The voters would be voting on this piece separately.”
“In light of what we have done here, we should let the voters decide on the matter,” said board member Michael Putorti.
“The vote for the library has never really been that close,” said member Virginia Rivette. “They have always passed it through.”
“But we have never seen these economic times,” added board member Joyce Rocque.
The board will also ask voters to cast their ballots for a proposition to increase the capital project fund balance by $500,000 and raise the funds ceiling from $1.5 million to $3.5 million.
“This is money that will be put aside for future capital projects,” said Watson. “The taxpayers would still have to vote on whether or not the money could be used to fund a project or not.”
Watson said that there are several projects that could be coming before the school board in the future.
“We have been talking about a new roof at the elementary school,” said Watson. “We have also looked at options for repairing or replacing the gymnasium at the high school. There is also the village water thing out there.”
The school board also voted to forgo their annual dues to the New York State School Board Association, a savings of nearly $5,000 for one year.
“With all of the cuts, we as a board should take some of that, too,” said school board member Mark DeLuca. “As far as I am concerned, the NYSSBA dues are a big chunk of money for what they do.”
Watson said that he knew that the Greenwich, Fort Ann and Argyle school districts were also not members of NYSSBA.
“They have not been there for a while,” said Watson. “What you are looking at is a one year absence and see where it goes from there.”
Watson also said that he would not be receiving an increase in compensation for the coming year, remaining at $135,000 budgeted for the position of chief administrator.
“It will stay the same next year,” he said.
Following discussion, the board unanimously moved to adopt the propositions and budget in preparation for the May 11 vote.