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No increase in Penn Yan district's tax levy

PENN YAN—District residents will go to the polls May 19 to decide on school budgets for the 2009-10 school year as well as on other propositions and voting for school board members. Voting will be from noon until 8 p.m. in the Penn Yan Middle School gymnasium on Liberty Street.
On May 6, Penn Yan Central School District Assistant Superintendent for Business Rodger Lewis presented an overview of the proposed budget of $31,109,611 during a public hearing during the district board of education meeting. Compared to the current budget, there is a 2.63 percent increase. Prior to cuts and trimming, the initial budget increase was six percent. The tax levy will remain at $15,147,368. The tax levy is flat and Lewis said, “I think we can celebrate that.”
Lewis said he would discuss revenue first because, “We have to know where the money is coming from before we budget.” In January, Gov. David Paterson proposed cutting $900,000 from state aid to the district under a process referred to as “Deficit reduction assessment.” The $900,000 was restored under the Federal Stimulus Plan but Penn Yan lost $300,000 in building aid due to a change in what was called “probable usefulness,” which was extended from 15 to 20 years. Lewis said he made phone calls about the building aid and was told it was not less aid in total, just stretched out over 20 years rather than 15.
Lewis also explained why buses that are proposed to be included with the budget would be equipped with air conditioning. He said, “We transport students all year long. Some students must have air conditioning due to health issues.”
The biggest new expense driving the budget is debt service, the cost for capital projects in the district. Lewis said the increase of state aid will help offset the local share. He said the budget would have decreased without debt service of $1.2 million. The capital projects at the elementary and high school were approved by voters. Lewis said debt service will go up again next year, adding, “It’s not just at Penn Yan. There are building projects all over.”
Lewis said 70 percent of the budget is the program component with teaching comprising one third of the budget. He said, “We’re a small community here and have a wide variety of needs. Some decreases were dealt with through staffing, through attrition for the most part.” Lewis commended district superintendent of schools Ann Orman for refusing a pay increase for the upcoming year. Lewis said, “We should be proud for her leading the way.”
Lewis outlined the propositions that will be presented to voters May 19. Following his comments, board member Mike VanWormer expressed his concern about the wording of propositions on Reserve funds, noting people don’t understand that those propositions don’t add cost to the budget. Lewis said the propositions are worded legally because they have to be. Reserve fund propositions include adding to one for stadium improvements so that the money will be available when it is time for major improvements, a fund for computer and technology and the Capital reserve fund to release $75,000 to complete a HVAC project at the middle school. Action on any reserve funds requires voter approval.
One audience member asked about enrollment trends and why capital improvements will be invested in projects. Lewis said the project provides more usable space and upgrade of science components. VanWormer added, “The biggest chunk of the increase is the academy renovation. It’s not a renovation to expand. Buildings have to be replaced or upgraded if they deteriorate. A new building project was voted down and this project was approved two years ago. Now we owe money on work already done. It’s a cost of doing business as a school.”

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