Lake Placid school budget meets tax cap

LAKE PLACID – The Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education is set to adopt a budget that meets the state’s property tax cap.

The board held its final budget workshop Wednesday night. School board President Mary Dietrich told the Enterprise Thursday she expects the board to vote to adopt the tentative 2013-14 budget at Tuesday’s regular board meeting. Then the board will host two public hearings: one in Wilmington on May 7 and another in Lake Placid on May 14.

Voters will decide whether to approve or reject the budget on May 21. They’ll also select two new board members; the slate of candidates is not yet determined.

“This budget keeps all existing programs,” Dietrich said. “We have strategically reduced positions through attrition. … We’re real pleased. And the process itself was fairly smooth. We feel like we have a good foundation in place that will allow our new administrative team to come in and work and move the district forward.

“I think we’ve brought some stability so that we can now really focus on a long-term strategic plan that will involve a lot of community input.”

The tentative budget would set the tax levy at $14,201,792, a 3 percent increase over the current year. That figure meets the property tax cap. The tax rate would increase 20 cents to $6.78 per $1,000 of assessed value. Total spending would be $17,264,976, a 2.65 percent increase over this year.

The district will receive close to $2.5 million in state aid next year, an increase of $186,406 that allowed the board to restore several previous cuts, Dietrich said. Those restorations include:

$40,965 for the district’s regular summer school program

$176,000 for maintenance

$20,263 for NovaNet and/or distance learning programs

$32,270 for an on-site computer technician, a service purchased through the Franklin-Hamilton-Essex Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

The tentative budget would not eliminate the Alpine skiing program, as had been previously proposed. Instead, it reduces the program’s expense by sending students to Mount Pisgah, in Saranac Lake, for training.

“We will not be buying the Whiteface Mountain passes,” Dietrich said.

The budget does not include any layoffs, although several teaching and teaching assistant positions were eliminated through attrition.

Dietrich said the board wants to find an alternative to NovaNet, but decided to leave the funding in place for the time being. NovaNet is a computer- and Web-based program that provides students with individualized instruction for a variety of subjects.

“We have to go with something like it,” Dietrich said. “NovaNet is a cost-effective way of running summer school so kids can come in and cover credits in several subjects. It kind of focuses on where they’re weak. … What it allows is one teacher to really cover several different courses. It cuts the cost of summer school in half.”

Dietrich said summer school would likely cost twice as much if the district didn’t use NovaNet or a similar program.

“We have to find something,” she said. “NovaNet is a little cumbersome to use. So we’re looking to see if there’s something that’s maybe a little less costly and more user-friendly.”

The additional state aid also lets the board restore reserve funds it had planned to use to buy down the tax levy.

Dietrich said the work of a new Budget Advisory Focus Group, which included stakeholders from local government, civic organizations, businesses and the school community, helped guide the board through the budget process.

“We had community input, which was very helpful,” she said.

A budget booklet will be made available to the public before the first budget hearing.