BCS Still At An Impasse In Third Vote On Bond Financing
by Thaddeus Flint
For the third week in a row the Berlin Central School Board meeting opened with a vote on the authorization of a $5.1 million bond for the Capital Project.
Once again School Superintendent Dr. Stephen Young reminded the Board that this project is “for the benefit of the student.” The buildings, especially the elementary school, are in need of urgent repairs to bring them up to State mandated standards. “It is the students who will suffer further without these repairs,” added Young.
[private]A 2/3rds majority vote must be made in favor of the Bond by the Board if the resolution is to pass. The project has already been approved by a majority of the residents.
Board Member Frank Zwack stated that the project is being held back by a few Board members with “selfish personal agendas.” To them, Zwack advised, “Maybe this is the wrong Board to be on.”
The project will install facilities for the disabled, work on the lead problem and update the elementary school’s boiler which has been problematic in the past. “There is zero impact for the taxpayer,” pointed out Zwack.
Zwack means that the project’s planners have stated that there will be no impact on the local school tax levy. The project is to be largely funded by State aid, most of which does in fact come from taxpayers.
Board Member Bev Stewart, who has voted against the project, stated that she “would fully support the project but only if we fully inform the voters” as to all aspects of the project’s planning as well as its funding. Stewart feels this was not done adequately before it was put to the residents as a referendum.
“I for one have no confidence in the leadership of this Board,” added Board Member John Nash. “And I haven’t for a good ten years now.” The only one who has been on the Board a good ten years now is Zwack. Nash held up two pieces of paper and said that they were full of reasons why he would be voting no.
“Perhaps we may have to keep doing this until it passes,” said Young.
Three Times A Charm?
It is not a charm in Berlin. Voting in favor of the resolution were Board President Gina Goodermote and Board Members Rachel Finney, James Willis and Frank Zwack. In opposition were John Nash and Beverly Stewart. Board member Alan Webster, Jr. was absent until just a few moments after the voting had taken place.
“This is ridiculous,” Finney loudly whispered to Zwack, “just ridiculous!”
As Goodermote has pledged to keep bringing the resolution back, it is likely the matter is far from finished.
Good News Budget
The Board then received some good news from the District’s Business Manager, William Burke, who has the Herculean task of putting together a 2013 school budget which will be accepted by the administrators, the Board and the residents. At last week’s budget workshop meeting, Burke was using an increase of 5.4% in the tax levy in his preliminary budget. This week that number is 2.31%.
“We knew that that was just not a do-able number,” pointed out Young, in regard to the 5.4% increase, “so we really looked at reducing expenditures.”
Young emphasized that even with a modest increase in the tax levy, the following considerations would be maintained in the budget:
• programs to reduce the drop-out rate;
• maintaining all academic programs;
• maintaining all athletics, extracurricular and other student activities;
• improving and upgrading technology infrastructure;
• implementing a preventative maintenance program in schools;
• continuing 21st century teaching and learning initiatives;
• increasing professional development
• maintaining favorable class sizes;
• the addition of a School Within a School Program which would concentrate on those students who might be left behind without a specialized academic environment;
• the addition of 21st Century Skills Program for ninth-graders;
• the addition of a secondary Special Education reading teacher for grades 6-9, and
• the addition of a .5 secondary art teacher.
Burke pointed out that all this is possible at the new tax levy increase of 2.31% because of reductions in expenditures, a lower cost for health insurance than expected and an increase in State aid. “The good news is that the State is starting to increase its aid to schools again,” said Burke. “The bad news is by how little.” Last week Burke was expecting $7,949,460 from the State of New York. “We did get a little bit more,” said Burke. This week that number is $5,574 more. “A very little bit,” Burke added.
The budget is now projected to be $17,466,847, which is around $230,000 less than what was projected at last week’s meeting. This is an increase of $92,000, or .53%, over the 2012 budget.
To make this number less abstract to the taxpayer, Burke calculated the tax change for a property with a value of $100,000. In 2012 the property owner would pay around $1,372. In 2013 the property owner would pay $1,404, an increase of only $32. Of course each town will be slightly different.
“Feelings? No feelings?” Burke asked the Board.
If there were any feelings one way or the other for Burke’s numbers, the Board was not sharing them yet. Stewart did say that she was concerned about using $573,000 of the fund balance. Nash thanked Burke for his hard work. “I feel good about how transparent it is,” he said.
The next budget meeting will be April 17, at which time a 2012-2013 budget is expected to be approved.[/private]