Caroline Murray/Recorder staff Broadalbin resident Fred Wilhelm is shown Tuesday at a budget hearing at Broadalbin-Perth High School. Wilhelm was one of two people who showed up.
By CAROLINE MURRAY
BROADALBIN -- Two people attended Broadalbin-Perth Central School District's budget hearing Tuesday in the high school auditorium.
"You remember the days that you came here and you'd have 50 to 75 people in the auditorium," superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said, referring to past budget hearings. "Unfortunately, that creates some difficulty for us, because it is hard for us to gauge what the concerns are."
Surrounded by empty seats, Broadalbin resident Fred Wilhelm addressed the board about some of his concerns with the $31,501,242 spending plan, including its 2.14 percent tax levy increase, BOCES aid and newly proposed common core state mandates.
The levy increase equates to $284,802, and is within the confines of the state-imposed property tax cap, officials said.
Wilhelm said as a representative of the town, he would like to re-remind the board the tax levy is important. Although he has witnessed and appreciates all the progress the students have made with programs such as Odyssey of the Mind, he said taxes are high enough.
Business administrator Marco Zumbolo and Tomlinson tried to reassure Wilhelm that they worked to keep the tax levy under the allowable tax cap level. To the pair of attendees, Tomlinson and Zumbolo outlined the plan, which calls for a 4.8 percent increase in spending.
The plan includes an expansion of several student programs aimed at providing more opportunities in the STEAM disciplines -- science, technology, engineering and math -- for elementary and middle school students.
"One of our goals this year was to expand and enhance our programs while maintaining a budget that stays within the tax cap," Tomlinson said. "So this year we are looking at no program cuts."
The budget includes funding for an after-school robotics competition program, and for eight high school students to participate in Hudson Valley Community College's new Clean Technologies and Sustainable Industries Early College High School program.
Additionally, an increase in salaries and benefits is allocated. Tomlinson said the district is looking into hiring a director of curriculum and grant-funded programs. He said the district has looked into hiring this position for many years. With new grants coming their way and state-mandated common core standards, the district believes it is the appropriate time to make the hire.
"We are operating off of $1.5 million grants, and the effort to make those grants work with state education department is considerable," Tomlinson said.
He said a portion of the salary will be funded through a grant program.
Board of Cooperative Educational Services aid is expected to increase by $548,000, which is money that will be partially reimbursed for next year's spending plan.
"There are several large increases in BOCES the account," Wilhelm said. He asked if there were decreases made in another account to balance out the spending.
Zumbolo said the majority of the aid is going toward technology projects; specifically, a new laptop initiative, and the installation of copiers at the elementary schools. Zumbolo said 70 percent of the cost is reimbursed by the state the following year.
Tomlinson said schools in general are spending more money outside of BOCES because of the guaranteed reimbursement, even if it is not the full 100 percent.
"Because we are seeing such a significant reduction in state aid, we have to find ways to capture that money," Tomlinson said.
The budget projects the district will receive a $160,000 refund from the state next year. If the district receives more, Zumbolo said it will be allocated to the fund balance.
Wilhelm asked if teachers were able to teach to the standards of the Common Core without having any mandate relief from the state.
Tomlinson said at first, they did not have enough of the materials needed to teach the students, and the students struggled with the common core. However, the district has since purchased the proper materials, and the students have responded better to the state's new requirements.
"We are able to teach to the level we need with the staff we have," Tomlinson said.
At the end of the meeting, Wilhelm said the board answered his questions and believed the budget would pass.
"This board has been careful and responsive," he said.
Broadalbin-Perth residents will vote on the budget Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the middle and high school gymnasiums.