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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 13, 2010

What would a contingency plan mean for BKW taxpayers?

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Berne-Knox-Westerlo taxpayers have expressed anger and disapproval at recent school board meetings towards this year’s $19.7-million budget proposal, opposing the tax hike and cuts to the school’s program and staff. But, with a contingency budget that is lower than the adopted budget, the district will have to make even more cuts to meet the state’s requirements, should the budget get voted down.

The budget vote is Tuesday, May 18. Should the district vote “no,” the school board will be left with three choices: It can put the same budget up for a second vote; it can go back to the drawing board and revise its spending plan; or it can adopt a $19,649,912 contingency budget, with a state-set spending cap of zero percent.

In anticipation of a $1.13-million drop in state aid, the proposed 2010-11 budget would total $19,657,406, spending $133,661 less than the current year’s budget, but increasing the tax levy by $659,172, or 6.7 percent. So, while the 2009-10 budget raised $9.8 million by property taxes with no tax-levy increase, next year’s will cost district residents $10,541,220 in taxes.

The contingency budget, on the other hand, would spend $141,155 less than the 2009-10 budget, and $7,483 less than the adopted budget up for vote on May 18. It would raise the tax levy by 6.62 percent, or $10,533,726, also less than the adopted budget.

If the district’s proposed budget is voted down twice, the district will automatically adopt the contingency budget. The maximum allowable percentage increase in spending for contingency budgets this year is currently set at zero for the following reasons:

Inflation is the overall measure of price growth of the goods and services purchased by a typical household — food, shelter, medical care, energy, and on — over a given period of time. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts periodic surveys of what people buy and how much they pay for it, and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is constructed based on the results. Growth in the CPI yields the most commonly cited measure of inflation.

To calculate the spending cap for contingency budgets, school districts multiply the annual average increase in the CPI for the preceding calendar year by 120 percent, and either that number or 4 percent represents the spending cap, whichever is less.

The CPI fell 0.3 percent in 2009. The New York State Department of Education has interpreted the law as saying that, if the average change is negative, it follows that the amount to be multiplied by 120-percent — the “increase” in the annual average — is zero, so the cap on spending increases in contingency budgets is set at zero percent.

BKW residents will vote next Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the high school auditorium, on the budget and the $365,000 bus proposition, and they will elect two school board members from a field of four candidates.

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