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Copenhagen school budget would raise levy by 2.9 percent

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COPENHAGEN — The Copenhagen Central School District’s tentative budget would increase the tax levy by 2.9 percent.

“It was a lot better than last year,” said Superintendent Scott N. Connell of the budget-development process.

Spending in the tentative budget, adopted recently by the Board of Education, is $10,166,561, up $1,184,003 from this year’s $8,982,558. That is a 13.2 percent increase.

The lion’s share of the increase, $986,911, stems from additional debt service from the district’s roughly $10 million capital project that is to be mostly offset by state building aid. The project’s primary feature, a geothermal heating and cooling system, must undergo further testing before it may be commissioned and turned over by contractors to the district, Mr. Connell said.

The geothermal project, 98 percent funded by state building aid, was to have a projected local share of $204,236, financed over 15 years.

That amount is expected to be offset by energy cost savings over that same period, but Mr. Connell said it is too early to make specific projections on savings.

The proposed levy, or amount to be raised by property taxes, is $1,530,001, up $43,120 from this year’s $1,486,881. Final tax rates won’t be available until town tax rolls are completed in August.

The tentative budget uses $710,465 from the district’s fund balance to keep taxes down; that’s up from $615,000 this year.

State foundation aid is projected to increase by $214,000 for 2012-13, Mr. Connell said.

While that didn’t make up for a more than $300,000 cut in state aid last year, it allowed district officials to restore some previously cut positions while keeping the levy increase well below the state tax cap limit of 6.3 percent, he said.

“We wanted to put ourselves in position to keep this going as long as we can,” Mr. Connell said. “I think we have set ourselves up nicely for next year.”

The tentative budget would return a part-time reading teacher position to full-time status and add a half-time math teacher position, which would partly replace a full-time teaching position that was cut a couple of years ago, Mr. Connell said.

District officials also plan to restore a summer school program for elementary students, to be run three mornings per week, intended to help keep children from back-sliding academically over the summer, he said.

The proposed budget also includes funding for junior varsity teams in all sports, Mr. Connell said. The district fielded JV teams only for boys’ and girls’ basketball this school year because of financial constraints as well as a lack of student interest, he said.

JV teams in other sports will be restored next year only if there is significant interest, Mr. Connell said.

Salaries are to increase by $178,855 to $3.7 million, while employee benefits are to rise by $36,464 to $2.1 million.

The district will hold its annual budget hearing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the school cafeteria, while the budget vote will be from noon to 8 p.m. May 15 in the gymnasium lobby.

District residents also will be asked to support the continued busing of children to Lowville Head Start on existing routes and the purchase of two 66-seat buses for up to $207,500.

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