Wheelerville school budget comes in under tax cap

CAROGA – The Wheelerville Union Free School District Board of Education last week adopted a proposed $4.3 million 2013-14 budget showing a 2 percent tax-levy increase, below the district’s allowable 3.26 percent state levy cap.

District Treasurer Kristin Barnhill said Thursday the board approved a budget carrying $4.3 million in appropriations. She said the district initially intended to craft a budget with a tax levy right up to the cap, but the fiscal situation of the district improved.

“We had originally been going with the 3.2 percent [levy increase], but we got the new state aid runs, and the aid increased,” she said.

Barnhill said the district’s state aid for next school year increased by about $150,000 to $160,000.

She said the district’s aid will be $1.54 million for next year, with the property tax levy being $2.16 million – up from $2.12 million in the current budget. She said the district plans to use $510,000 in fund balance to help balance the spending plan.

Proposed spending would go up by about 4 percent, from about $4.1 million in the current budget.

District Superintendent Richard Ruberti said today increases of 10.5 percent in the Employees Retirement System costs and roughly 30 percent in the Teachers Retirement System were “drivers” that increased the budget.

The Wheelerville Board of Education will conduct a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. May 13 at the school, followed by the regular board meeting. Residents of the Wheelerville Union Free School District will vote May 21 on the spending plan.

The small school district in Caroga Lake serves about 134 students from pre-kindergarten through grade eight. Graduating students transfer to Johnstown High School to complete their public school education.

Barnhill said the district will have no major staff or program cuts next school year. She said the district will continue its free breakfast and lunch program.

Major costs going up for the 2013-14 school year include health insurance expenditures, which Barnhill said increased by 6 percent.

Barnhill said the district is looking at possibly spending more on technology and special education. There are no planned major capital purchases for the next school year, she said.

Michael Anich can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.