Presentation given as budget vote nears

PINE PLAINS — Superintendent of Schools Linda Kaumeyer gave the first formal presentation of the Pine Plains Central School District’s proposed 2007-2008 budget at the Board of Education’s March 21 meeting.

"I’m going to give you a brief description of the process we went through to get to today," the superintendent said.

While Kaumeyer said this is a "maintenance budget," she stressed that no programs are being cut.

However, the district will steer clear of big expenditures, such as the purchase of equipment.

There have been increases in mandated district costs, including health insurance premiums and retirement plans.

Kaumeyer said the new budget allows for personnel expansion, such as the addition of 1.5 full-time employees (FTEs) in the severely understaffed business office.

Funds have also been allocated for internal auditing services, which are mandated by the state of New York.

According to Kaumeyer, there are currently a lot of "ifs" because Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s budget, which dictates how much aid the district will receive from the state, has not yet been approved.

Board member Maureen Hebert said state administration has said in the press that passing the budget "on time is important, but getting it right is more important."

The district budget is divided into three sections; administration, program and capital.

The second is the largest "chunk," Kaumeyer said, because it contains salaries and benefits for every employee in the district.

The proposed budget-to-budget increase from the 2006-2007 fiscal plan clocks in at 5.9 percent.

Kaumeyer, who thanked all her colleagues who have worked to assemble the plan since the beginning of this year, said she is pleased because the board asked her to keep the percentage under 6 percent.

Additionally, studies show the average current increase in this state is between 6 and 8 percent.

The superintendent used a pie chart to show how the budget is divided.

Salaries and benefits account for more than three-quarters of the proposed plan, which currently stands at $24,619,600.

"I recommend that the board take a serious look at the budget in the next couple of weeks," Kaumeyer said.

If the next year’s proposed budget is rejected by the public, the district would have to enact a contingency budget, which would whittle the budget-to-budget increase down to 3.4 percent.

The Pine Plains Central School District’s budget timeline is as follows: the board will vote on the document on April 18, there will be a public hearing on May 2 and on Tuesday, May 15, the public will voice its opinion.

Kaumeyer stressed that the budget will be presented on all three of these dates.

"They’re like public hearings," she said, also stressing to the audience that every vote counts. "I’ll remind you to exercise your right to vote."

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