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Edwards-Knox school budget calls for tax hike, some cuts

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RUSSELL — Voters in the Edwards-Knox Central School District will be asked to adopt a 2014-15 budget that calls for a 2.77 percent tax levy increase and the elimination of some jobs and programs.

A public hearing on the $12,665,177 spending plan is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 13 in the cafeteria followed by the regular school board meeting.

The budget calls for hiking spending by $373,309 over this year’s $12,291,868 budget, representing a 3 percent increase. The tax levy, or amount of money to be collected from property owners, would increase from $1,816,269 to $1,866,570.

Based on current assessments, the tax rate in the town of Edwards is projected to increase from $10.54 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $10.83. The town of Russell’s rate is estimated to go from $13.17 to $13.53 per $1,000.

During budget discussions, the board agreed to continue funding some items that had been considered for elimination, including a half-time Spanish position, swimming, driver education, golf and a monitor.

Several other expenses were cut to help close a projected $800,000 budget gap. Job cuts include a business teacher, a special education teacher, three teacher assistants, an interpreter and a math coach, and reducing an agriculture teaching position to half time.

Some of the program cuts include distance learning, junior varsity cheerleading, summer band and fifth- and sixth-grade basketball.

School Superintendent Suzanne L. Kelly said the cuts were not made lightly and were necessary because of a decreasing fund balance and other fiscal constraints over the past several years.

“By making cuts, we feel it helps us to be able to lengthen the time and existence of our fund balance,” Ms. Kelly said in an email. “No cut is desired and goes without pain or loss to staff, students or community members. The administration and board of education have struggled with these decisions.”

The proposed budget allocates $523,249 from fund balance toward next year’s operating budget compared with $614,849 allocated this year.

Besides the budget, voters will fill two school board seats. Stacia A. Kroniser and Diane Scott are vying for the seat held by Teresa A. Hogle, who is not seeking re-election. Reginald LaPoint, board vice president, is seeking re-election. Both seats carry five-year terms.

A separate bus bond proposition will ask voters to approve spending a maximum of $290,000 to purchase two 72-passenger buses and a 30-passenger bus.

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