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The Times
  • Little Falls school board conducts budget hearing

  • Despite a low turnout, members of the Little Falls Board of Education fielded questions from residents during a public hearing on the 2012 - 2013 proposed budget Thursday.

    The district’s budget of $21,124,924 represents an increase of $845,190 from the current year.

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  • Despite a low turnout, members of the Little Falls Board of Education fielded questions from residents during a public hearing on the 2012 - 2013 proposed budget Thursday.
    The district’s budget of $21,124,924 represents an increase of $845,190 from the current year.
    The proposed tax levy is estimated to be $273,454, a 3.56 percent increase.
    Superintendent of Schools Louis Patrei said Thursday night the proposed tax levy is below the limit allowed by the new property tax cap legislation. District Business Manager Clete McLaughlin said this is important as the proposed budget will not require a supermajority, or 60 percent, vote to pass.
    “The board, Mr. Patrei and Mr. McLaughlin were in agreement that the budget should come in under the limit that was allowed under the tax cap legislation, and everyone involved in the budget process worked hard to make that a reality,” said board of education President William Dodge. “The district’s tax levy limit is 3.67 percent, so to come in under that, at 3.56 percent, and to maintain educational programs and extracurricular activities is a real positive. This budget meets our goals.”
    McLaughlin said not withstanding the yearly fluctuations in assessments and equalization rates, a residential taxpayer, with a home valued at $75,000 and qualifying for the basic STAR exemption, would expect to pay $27 more in their 2012 tax bill, if the budget is approved by voters on May 15.
    Patrei said there were three main reasons for the budget increase, including compensating for the loss of $286,139 in federal funding under the Education Jobs Fund program; a $234,488 increase in special education costs attributed to student placements in out of district settings; and a $377,513 increase in employee benefits associated with higher health insurance and pension contributions.
    While the educational program remains essentially intact, Patrei said the budget does reflect a reduction in staff through attrition of three teaching and two non-instructional positions.
    The superintendent also said the proposed budget continues the district’s commitment to the use of technology as an instructional tool through the inclusion of a new multi-year purchase agreement which will allow for significant upgrades in the district’s computer systems.
    “Although admittedly we are not providing the same level of support services to our students that we did several years ago, the strong academic program that we have worked so hard to develop remains intact,” said Patrei, adding the district, through this budget, can proudly boast of the 12 Advanced Placement and college level course opportunities available to students.
    The proposed budget maintains all athletic, arts and extracurricular programs.
    In the event a budget defeat, McLaughlin said two options are available to the board of education. The first would be to implement a contingent budget which caps the tax levy at the prior year’s amount — a zero percent increase. This would necessitate a $273,454 reduction in appropriations.
    Page 2 of 2 - “To arrive at that level significant program and personnel cuts would be required,” he said.
    The second option available to the board of education, said McLaughlin, would be to conduct a second budget vote with or without changes in the original budget. “However, if the budget is defeated a second time, the board of education must then adopt a contingent budget,” he said.
    Along with electing three commissioners to the board of education, two to three year terms and the third to a one year term, and voting on the budget, voters will be asked to decide whether the district should purchase a 20 passenger school bus for a sum not to exceed $46,000 and to increase the tax levy for the Little Falls Public Library from $78,950 to $80,500. The vote will take place on Tuesday, May 15, from noon to 9 p.m. in the Little Falls Middle School gymnasium.

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