School Board says there are still no 'hard numbers' to work with
By ALVIN REINER ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School Board is looking at a tentative tax-levy increase of under 3 percent right now.The board members recently held what they hope will be the next to the last in a series of workshops to put together the 2007-08 budget.The School Board was approaching its calculations cautiously, as New York state had not approved a budget."We need to go back to being on the conservative side and play safe," Board President William Haseltine said.Last year at this time, the board was working with a state budget that had already been passed, but this year there are no "hard numbers" to work with.The tentative budget totals $7,367,815, a 4.63-percent increase from the 2006-07 budget.The board has made a concerted effort to reduce the initially projected increase in the tax levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — from 3.9 percent to 2.9 percent. This would necessitate using money from the fund balance.Board members felt it was better to budget more out of the fund balance; if enough state aid comes through, money can always be put back.The district currently has about $1.6 million in its fund balance.In defending the budget increase, board members felt they are looking toward the future and want to avoid what happened about 10 years ago when, after several years of no increase, they were faced with an 18-percent levy hike.One of the costs added to the budget is $80,000 for contractual incentives for two teacher retirements.Health insurance has increased 7.5 percent, and workers compensation has gone up 5 percent.An additional $26,250 is needed for special-education costs.One of the items discussed that will not affect the budget is the possible shifting of a special-education teacher from elementary-age students to junior high. This is due to students moving up in grade levels.The school might need to hire an additional aide for a student, but since the annual reviews have not yet taken place, this could not be figured for sure.The district expects to purchase one school bus. Officials said the life expectancy of the vehicles is around 10 years, and the district's oldest bus was purchased in 1998.ELCS has obtained a bus each year, but they have been the smaller ones to take students on daily runs to CV-TEC and for handicapped accommodations.The replacement of athletic uniforms was also being explored. Superintendent Gail Else indicated that the school "needs to make plans "¦ as it cannot replace all at once."She indicated a "need to do homework ... to find a solid vendor," so if a few uniforms need to be added or replaced in the future, it can be done.Board member Paul Fenton suggested the formation of a booster club to deal with such issues.The next scheduled budget meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in the conference room. The public is welcome.