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Beaver River planning to add pre-K this fall

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BEAVER FALLS — Beaver River Central School District plans to add universal prekindergarten in the fall.

“We see a great need for it,” District Superintendent Leueen Smithling said. “We think our children would benefit from it.”

While pre-K funding is frozen at the state level, the Board of Education will implement the half-day program — which all other Lewis County school districts already offer — regardless of whether aid will be available to offset the roughly $200,000 annual cost of the program.

“We’ve had lots of people call about it,” Mrs. Smithling said, noting the district will welcome any pre-K grants if they do become available.

An influx of additional state funding, thanks to state reclassification of Beaver River as a high-need, rural district, helped make that decision a little easier, she said.

Because of the change, overall state funding is projected to increase by $911,133, or nearly 11 percent, to $9.2 million.

While state gap elimination adjustments make the actual net gain to the district closer to $400,000, that still should have a significant impact, Mrs. Smithling said.

“It’s going to allow us to do some things for our kids,” she said.

District officials are planning to add a second-grade teacher because of a large class size, restore a technology/driver’s education position that was cut a few years ago and return a part-time sixth-grade English teaching position to full-time status, Mrs. Smithling said.

Spending in the proposed 2013-14 budget is at $16,524,385, up $93,067 from this year’s $16,431,318. That’s a 0.6 percent increase.

The levy, or total amount to be raised by property taxes, would increase by $94,991, from $4,749,542 to $4,844,533. That’s a 2 percent hike, while the state property tax cap would allow the district to raise the levy as much as 5.5 percent.

Final tax rates are unavailable until the town tax rolls are completed in August.

With the additional state funding, district officials plan to reduce fund balance use by $607,189, from $2.7 million to $2.1 million.

Despite significant increases in fixed costs such as salaries and state retirement, Mrs. Smithling said, the district has implemented measures, such as effectively freezing teacher expenditures after Dec. 1, that have kept spending from escalating dramatically.

“We’ve been very cautious with what we’ve spent,” she said.

District officials also project debt payments from past capital projects will drop slightly.

The annual budget vote will be from 1 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium.

Voters also will be asked to approve a proposition allowing the district to purchase three school buses through borrowing and increase funding to the Croghan Free Library from $20,000 to $30,000.

Brian LaChausse, Jacquelyn Prashaw and Deanna Hoch are running for a five-year Board of Education seat being vacated by Bobby Cobb.

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