Schools facing budget doubts

Norwood-Norfolk Central School District. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

NORFOLK — Norwood-Norfolk Central School voters could have been voting on a 2020-21 budget with a 2.32 percent tax levy increase, but that won’t be happening.

The district is presenting a $24.6 million spending plan that carries a 0 percent tax levy increase for the second consecutive year.

“At this time our board did not feel that was appropriate. We have many people out of work in the community,” Superintendent James Cruikshank said during this week’s public budget hearing.

To keep the tax levy increase at 0 percent, he said the board is using $728,179 from its fund balance and $529,722 from its reserves.

During this week’s hearing, Mr. Cruikshank outlined the areas that impacted the budget proposal — the administrative budget, capital budget and program budget.

The administrative budget includes funding for the board of education; chief school administrator’s office; administrative services; central services; special items such as insurance, dues and services from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services; staff supervision; and employee benefits.

That portion of the budget represents $2.4 million, with the largest expense — $805,754 — coming from the special items.

Mr. Cruikshank said the special items includes the administrative portion of the BOCES budget and capital project expenses, which are eligible for state aid.

“We get a better aid rate on BOCES,” he said.

The capital budget represents everything related to non-instruction — fuel, utilities, water and sewage; telephone; trash removal; contractual expenses; equipment, materials and supplies; BOCES services; debt service; interfund transfers; and employee benefits.

That portion represents $3.44 million in the budget, with the largest area being debt service, at $2.01 million.

“That’s basically a change in principal and interest payments. Most of our debt is aided from past projects,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

The largest portion of the district’s overall budget is dedicated to the program component, which includes legal services; other central services; regular instruction; special education instruction; instructional media (library and technology); guidance office; health office; psychology and social work services; co-curriculars; athletics, transportation; interfund transfers and employee benefits.

The total for the program portion of the budget is $18.7 million. Employee benefits make up the biggest chunk — $6.7 million. The employee benefits include worker’s compensation, retirement benefits, sick leave payouts and other benefit areas.

“The big one in that is health insurance. Health insurance didn’t go up as much as we thought it would,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

The district will also be asking voters to approve the purchase of three student transportation vehicles at a cost not to exceed $275,000.

In addition, five individuals have submitted their names for four seats on the board of education. Three of the seats are for three-year terms, and one seat is for a one-year term. Candidates are incumbent Robert Barlow, newcomer Marela Fiacco, incumbent Jonathan Hunkins, newcomer Amy Lacroix and newcomer Richelle Reid.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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