NEW BERLIN – The Unadilla Valley Central School District held its annual Budget Hearing Monday night, the proposed $20,132,967 budget for the 2013-2014 school year refecting a 2.31 percent increase - or $455,223 - from the current year’s spending plan and resulting in a 1.19 percent tax levy increase if approved by voters on May 21.
For the owner of a home valued at $100,000 on the STAR Program, the proposed levy increase would result in an estimated tax increase of $12 for the year.
Superintendent Robert Mackey laid out the differences in next year’s proposed budget as compared to previous years and noted the proposed budget’s tax levy increase is lower than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the third year in a row.
Added Mackey, who said the district has been responsive to decreasing enrollment figures, “We can’t guarantee it will always be there, but it is a good trend line.”
One resident in attendance was vocal during the hearing, stating his concerns regarding reduced enrollment. He stated that enrollment since last year decreased seven percent and that staff was not reduced proportionately. If staff was reduced in conjunction with enrollment decline, he said, eleven positions should have been cut.
Mackey and BOE President Sandra Cooper went on to explain that it is not always “black and white,” and there are gray areas in relation to the issue. Some students require one-on-one aides, positions which cannot be cut, said Mackey.
Mackey stated that a large part of the budget is staffing and employee benefits. He explained a law passed in Albany stating an employee with ten years of service in a tier four or below no longer has to make the employee contribution of three percent - resulting in increased costs for the district.
According to Mackey, the cost of health insurance has gone up 28 percent since 2007-2008, and staff has been reduced nearly 23 percent since that time. The amount in the budget designated for employee health and dental benefits is $3,402,094. Mackey attested that UV has one of the most conservative health and dental packages in the area.