During its presentation, Onteora administrators presented historical data showing past budgets in comparison, all of which show the proposed spending increase for 2010-2011, which amounts to $156,807, or .31 of one percent, would be the smallest spending increase in decades.
The anticipated tax levy on such an increase, however, amounts to approximately 3.91 percent or $37 per $100,000 home value (not including the STAR reduction). The increase in taxes would occur because of decreasing revenue from New York State (still mired in budget limbo) and less interest income on funds that the district has or will have.
"I wanted to review some of the historical data to give a perspective because this is - as one of our board members stated - this is the lowest imaginable increase in the budget that we've had and we went back multiple decades," said Assistant Superintendent for Business Victoria McLaren.
McLaren broke it down further.
Over $40 million of the budget goes directly to program, including instructional salaries; administrative and capital expenses make up the additional portion. "Our program portion is clearly the lions share of where the money goes - as it should be," McLaren said.
Property taxes make up 78 percent of the revenue, State and Federal aid make up 17 percent and the district generates five percent of revenue. "Our largest revenue component is our property tax base," McLaren said, "and sometimes that is a good thing because a lot of districts who are very dependent on State and Federal aid are in dire straights this year and the coming years because everyone's aid has been cut. So for us it is not as big as an injury."
If voters reject the budget the first time, the board will need to decide following the May 18 budget vote if they will have another election to reintroduce a budget. The board is concerned with additional election costs and has the option to go directly to an austerity budget, which would require an additional $87,000 in cuts. Additionally all equipment purchases would be frozen as required by law. This includes new equipment purchases, student supplies and allowing no public use of buildings that may require additional maintenance costs.
The board approved the termination of five teachers and eight teaching assistants. This makes up part of the overall elimination of 11.5 teaching position and 12.5 non-teaching employees. Retirements and resignations made up the additional cuts.
In other news...
• New York City Department of Environmental Protection approved plans to hook the campus into the town of Olive's new wastewater treatment plant in Boiceville. Jared Mance the director of buildings and grounds said that the district would then no longer need to maintain it's own in-house wastewater treatment plant. The engineering firm Praetorius and Conrad of Saugerties designed and maintains the current system and have been working with the district for 15 years. Mance said, "They have designed (new) specs which outline what will be done to tie the entire campus into the new sewer system." There would be two phases to the project - the physical connection of the new sewer plant, followed by the dismantling of the existing treatment plant. The district oversees the bids and lays out the money, but all of it will be reimbursed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. The goal to begin phase one of the project is this summer.
• The district's new Greensand Water filtration system is up and running at the Boiceville campus. The drinking fountains no longer taste like metal or flow brown. The system was installed due to high levels of Manganese in the water and the filtration appears to be working well.
But a rumor in which Trustee Tony Fletcher described as "Chinese whispers," appeared to be gaining speed about a potential toxic level of Chromium in the water. Information about the alleged Chromium allegedly stemmed from students who attended a Woodstock Environmental Committee meeting, but no tests formal or informal have surfaced. Trustees and Superintendent Leslie Ford are not aware of any concrete evidence that the chemical exists in the water. Ford said the New York Department of Health tests the water for metals about once every three years, is expensive and that the district has no control over the time frame. Tests for other substances are run annually. She said tests are usually conducted in the summer when the water is not in use as often and chemicals tend to build up. The Health Department is expected to test this summer, but nothing has been scheduled yet. ++