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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, February 5, 2009

BKW plans to cut $850K from budget

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board plans to cut close to $850,000 from next year’s budget. The board is currently aiming for a $19.6-million budget, down from this year’s $20.5-million budget. A 3-percent tax levy hike is projected.

Business Administrator Timothy Holmes expects to have more definitive estimates on expenses by the budget advisory committee’s Feb. 12 meeting. The deadline for the final budget draft is April 6; the public will vote on May 19.

State aid paid for 46 percent of this year’s BKW budget, and the governor has proposed cutting $705,643 in BKW’s aid next year.

Part of the budget will include transportation costs. Tammy Krueger, BKW’s assistant director of transportation, recommended purchasing three 65-passenger school buses and two eight-passenger Chevrolet Suburbans for the 2009-10 school year, at a total estimated cost of $369,000.

The district has also established a timeline for the long-discussed, $12-million-plus building project, which will cost, on average, $6 per taxpayer.

“The plans are in the final stages, and we hope to submit our plans to the state education department for approval in March,” said Superintendent Steve Schrade last week. “That’s a little later than we hoped, but the complexity of this project is such that it took a little longer. The State Education Department usually takes four to five months to approve, so that takes us toward the end of the summer.”

The district hopes to seek bids for construction in late August or early September, Schrade said. Construction would start in the fall of 2009, continue for the next 12 to 14 months, and be nearly completed by the fall of 2010, he said.

Westerlo School

BKW acquired the Westerlo School when Berne-Knox merged with Westerlo. The facility is currently being rented by the Helderberg Christian School, and the board has talked about selling it.

According to a title search by attorneys at Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna LLP, the deed for the Westerlo School does not, in any way, stipulate that the building must remain a school should it change ownership. School board President Helen Lounsbury raised the possibility of such a stipulation in December.

Also, on Jan. 1, Lounsbury received a letter from the Helderberg Christian School, thanking the school board for allowing it to rent the Westerlo School, and expressing its interest in buying the building from the BKW district.

Attached to the letter was a petition that held the signatures of 115 individuals in favor of the district’s continuing to lease the building to the Helderberg Christian School; should the district choose the sell the Westerlo School, the petitioners encouraged the district to sell it to the Helderberg Christian School.

“We determined that 38 of these signatures were from residents of the district, and 77 were from non-residents,” Schrade said.

No decision has been made on selling the building.

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