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Colton-Pierrepont taxpayers to vote on $9.84 million budget

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COLTON — Voters in the Colton-Pierrepont Central School District will head to the polls May 21 to decide the district’s $9.84 million budget for 2013-14.

The budget, which boosts spending by 3.9 percent, or $370,000, carries a 3.98 percent tax levy increase, $10,401 below the district’s permitted increase of 4.1 percent.

The tax levy is $7,060,000.

Superintendent Joseph A. Kardash said he realizes this year’s increase is larger than in previous years, but hopes taxpayers again will support the district.

He noted the district’s budget has declined 1.26 percent since the 2009-10 school year.

“We decreased, stayed flat, went up a little and went up a little,” he said referring to the next several budgets leading up to the 2013-14 proposal. “At some point something had to give.”

At the same time the state was decreasing aid to schools, expenses for the district were increasing. “You would have to go back to 2005-2006 to find a year where the district received more aid than it did this year,” he said. “In that time health insurance has risen about 31 percent. The costs for the retirement systems, both teachers and nonteachers, have risen 113 percent and 92 percent, respectively.”

Mr. Kardash said the 31 percent health insurance increase even includes savings from switching plans and collecting a 10 percent premium contribution from all employees on the plan.

While this year’s budget does not include cuts to staffing or programs, Mr. Kardash said future budgets probably will include such cuts.

“Our long-term plan is to evaluate every instance of attrition and see what the impact to instruction would be if we didn’t refill that position,” he said. “We know we have to make cuts over the next three years, and we anticipate some attrition over that same frame.”

The budget, though, does include one less position, as the school psychologist, who was hired through the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, is retiring at the end of the year. The new director of pupil services, Lianne L. Knight, is also a certified psychologist.

“Essentially this is another example of administration taking on more and doing more with less,” he said. “The school will take advantage of that opportunity and decrease a BOCES service.”

To help balance the budget, Mr. Kardash said, the district is using $400,000 from its fund balance, the same amount used to support the current year’s plan.

The district’s annual budget hearing will be at 6 p.m. May 8 in the school cafeteria.

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