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Norwood-Norfolk board of education passes budget

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NORFOLK — Norwood-Norfolk school officials have approved a budget for the 2013-14 school year that includes a 3 percent tax levy increase to cover rising expenses.

Superintendent Elizabeth A. Kirnie said the increase in school taxes is needed in order for the Norwood-Norfolk Central School District to remain financially stable, and she pointed out that the tax increase is well under the state’s cap of 4.52 percent. There will be a budget hearing May 14, and the budget will be voted on May 21.

With current assessments, Norwood-Norfolk Central School Business Manager Lisa M. Mitras said that would be an approximate increase of $22 on a $50,000 property at full value.

“I think the board has come up with a good plan that maintains quality programs for students and shares the burden of financing those programs with the community,” Ms. Kirnie said. “I know people want to keep the school. If taxpayers pay a little more, it means we can keep the school functional for a while.”

Under the proposed budget, the district would increase its program expenditures from $13.95 million to $14.65 million, increase its administrative budget from $1.75 million to $1.806 million and increase its capital budget, including maintenance, operations and debt service costs, from $3.796 million to $3.825 million.

A significant portion of the district’s increased expenses are due to rising health care costs; employee benefits are increasing by $756,000 in the 2013-14 budget. To help cover the rising costs, the district is reducing its funding for BOCES by approximately $130,000, reducing its administrative service costs from $285,486 to $252,798 and dropping from $285,865 to $187,819 the amount it pays toward its capital instructional contractual costs, which include teacher conferences and travel, tuition charges from other schools and equipment repair.

Ms. Kirnie raised concern that if excessive amounts of fund reserves are utilized, the district may deplete those reserves and be unable to fill the gap between its revenue and its expenses in the near future.

“Right now, we’re using a large chunk of our fund balance reserves. The more we use, the sooner that’s depleted, and then we become financially unstable,” Ms. Kirnie said.

Board President Jon Hazen previously said among the factors they had to consider was the use of reserves without replenishing them and the potential impact of a recent revaluation in the town of Potsdam in which property values increased in many cases.

“We’re still using our reserves without replenishing them at all,” he said.

Board member Stephen Markum agreed that they could use the newsletter to justify the need for the increase by pointing out what the district was facing, such as increases in retirement and health insurance contributions.

“I think I can go with 2.98 percent,” David Flint said, noting he believed the board had done a good job in the past to maintain programs and staff while keeping tax levy increases low. “They (residents) see that we’re trying to do that.”

The budget does not include any faculty cuts.

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