By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO May 31, 2005 The Monticello Central School Board of Education will send back a new budget to district voters with total expenditures totaling $732,291 less than the previous budget, which was defeated on May 17 by a razor-thin vote of 672-663.
The budget cut will preclude the district from purchasing five new buses proposed in the last budget. On June 14, voters will have a separate option on the ballot as to whether they want to approve the purchase of the five buses, which totals $421,875. The new proposed budget would allow the district to purchase an additional three new buses and one smaller handicapped bus.
The projected tax levy increase will now be 6.92 percent, according to Business Administrator Gladys Baxter. The previous tax levy estimate was 9.27 percent higher than the year before.
That is not to be confused with tax rates, which will differ throughout the district and are not currently available. Baxter hopes to have that information ready by the budget hearing June 2. She said she is looking for more updated information from local assessors.
The new budget will total $59,535,530, or $3,232,342 more than last years budget of $56,302,190. If passed, the district will have seen an average overall tax increase in the district of over 37 percent in the last four years.
The public budget hearing will be held at the Robert Kaiser Middle School cafeteria on June 2 at 7 p.m.
At the board meeting Thursday, William Fedun of Wurtsboro was not pleased that the tax rate data was unavailable. He referenced remarks made by Town of Mamakating Supervisor Charles Penna, who has made repeated warnings that the school tax rate could be significantly higher this year due to the state equalization board determining the town was not fully assessed. Penna has blamed the state board for not conducting a thorough assessment of town-wide properties and differentiating between property values in different sections of the town.
Fedun questioned how voters in his town could vote without knowing the actual tax increase. In a prior year, when the overall tax increase was estimated at 6 percent, Mamakating was hit with an increase of more than three times that amount, he said.
The cuts to the budget will also eliminate the proposed new position of personnel director, which would have cost $129,004. Other cuts included over $25,000 for equipment, $19,274 in expenditures for BOCES distance learning, $15,000 for instructional conferences, and $9,000 from the board of education and business office budget.
In addition, the administration and the board expect to save $67,500 by refinancing old capital improvement bonds and $41,000 through a new phone system, said board member Robert Stewart.
The meeting was preceded by a chorus of George L. Cooke Elementary School teachers who called on the board to hire Susan Gottlieb as the new principal of their Monticello school, but instead she was hired as the principal of the Emma Chase Elementary School in Wurtsboro.
Gottlieb has served as the literacy coordinator at the school for the last six years and has been with the school for over 20 years, according to her fellow faculty members.
Gottlieb said she applied for the Chase job before a position opened at the Cooke school. Her fellow teachers lauded her leadership qualities and her teaching abilities, which they said have led to increased literacy scores in the school. Furthermore, they expressed worry about continuing administrative turmoil, including five principals in the last seven years. Some teachers said staff morale was low at the school
The district was criticized by Bobby Mapes, a Verizon employee, who said the district had wasted money by not discontinuing phone lines at its old middle school building until he discovered them. He disagreed with the schools purchase of a new voiceover IP system, which he considered an unwarranted new expenditure.
Superintendent Eileen Casey defended the move as a cost-saving measure which replaced old phone lines which werent sufficient in her view.
During a presentation by the districts athletics director, Ken Garry, it was disclosed that there had been several leaks in the locker room and gym of the new middle school. Board member Eugene Nesin raised the possibility that the work may be covered under the schools warranty. Casey said she would look into it.
In other business, Katie Manz was unanimously approved to a teachers position, special subject tenure area: health.