Express News Staff
The Town of Webb Union Free School District’s Board of Education approved a proposed budget for the 2012-2013 school year of $7,572,695 at its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 20. This proposed budget is a .26 percent increase over last year’s actual budget of $7,552,866.
Town of Webb UFSD Superintendent Rex Germer says that he’s satisfied with this year’s budget.
“I think it’s very fair. I think what we’re seeing is a leveling off. We’ve had several years of reduction in the budget. This year we’ve got a small increase,” he said.
The vast majority of the proposed budget goes toward the programming that is offered to the students. The general fund is broken down as follows: 75 percent programming, 13 percent administrative, and 12 percent capital. This falls in line with the goal to keep the educational opportunities for the students at or above current levels while keeping costs down.
“One of the biggest challenges is maintaining the program for our students, including some accelerated courses and some remedial courses, while being fair to the taxpayer,” said Germer.
Another challenge this year is clearing up misconceptions about the so-called two percent limit on the tax levy increase. According to Germer, this is misleading, because the limit actually varies from district to district and is based on a mathematical formula.
“By law and according to the formula, we are actually allowed an increase of 2.84 percent this year. We’ve kept under that tax levy limit with a proposed increase of 2.82 percent,” he said.
The estimated tax levy for 2012-13 is $5,250,749, up 2.82 percent from last year’s actual tax levy of $5,106,610. However, this year’s tax levy represents a 1.06 percent decrease over last year’s approved levy of $5,306,610. This is because last year’s approved levy was reduced by $200,000 using an unappropriated fund balance, causing the actual levy to be less than the approved levy.
The estimated property tax per $1,000 of assessed property value will be $3.33 in the Town of Webb, and $2.87 in the Town of Forestport.
Many of the increases in the budget are out of the school board’s hands.
“Some of your standard costs you can’t do anything about, like retirement programs, health benefits, things that are contractually based,” says Germer. “That’s where you see increases that you don’t have a lot of control over, like in any business.”
Another example is the after school program. This was paid for in the past by a federal grant that is no longer available. In order to maintain programming, this cost has to be picked up on a local level.
Also, the state has imposed mandates on the cafeteria program that increase costs. The school is now required to serve more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This causes an increase in food costs that can’t be made up by charging more for meals, so the school will have to cover a portion of this increase.
Additionally, an anticipated increase in the number of students enrolled in BOCES classes will increase the amount the school will pay for these classes next year.
Although there are the inevitable increases in the proposed budget, reductions were made wherever possible. And even though many of these reductions are small, they all add up. Some savings will be felt in the form of benefit reductions. For example, due to a retirement, a full-time position will be replaced with a part-time position that does not require benefits.
The Board of Education reducing its size from seven members to five members this year will save the district money. Also, the school will utilize the existing custodial staff for maintenance projects that had been hired out in the past. Money will also be saved on legal fees by using BOCES services for contract negotiations.
There will be a significant decrease in the amount the district pays for BOCES special education, due to an anticipated decrease in students that will need these services next year. Savings will also be seen by hiring the school psychologist directly, rather than paying BOCES for her services.
“I don’t think there’s anything huge, but I think there’s some realignment of the numbers,” says Germer. “We’re trying to streamline our processes, trying to be really conscious of the cost of things, and use the people that we have here,” he says.
Besides the budget, three Board of Education seats will also be on the ballot. However, two of the seats will be filled by candidates who are running unopposed.
Kathleen Nahor is running unopposed to serve the remainder of a five year term, running from May 15, 2012, through June 30, 2014. An Old Forge resident since 1965, both Nahor and her daughter are Town of Webb UFSD graduates. Nahor has served on the school board since she was appointed in 2004. She looks forward to the future of the board. “The Town of Webb UFSD has a brand new administration and a new board configuration (from seven members to five). This is an exciting time of change and refocus for our school. The opportunity to be part of that atmosphere is very appealing to me,” she says.
When asked what makes her a valuable board member, her answer is simple: experience.
Joseph Phaneuf will be running to for a five year term to begin July 1, 2012. Initially, Ronald Smith was planning to oppose Phaneuf for this seat, but has now announced that he intends to withdraw his candidacy. “A quality board member willing to fight for the best interests of current and future students is a valuable resource. While attending recent board meetings, and in direct conversations with Joe, I have come to the conclusion that he is, and will continue to be an outstanding member of the school board,” said Smith. “I am therefore withdrawing from this year’s election, and ask anyone who may have supported me to vote for Joe Phaneuf, and to vote yes for the school budget,” he said.
Although he is trying to withdraw from the race, Smith is not certain that this will be allowed. “If, due to some legal technicality, that is unable to be done, then I will continue to communicate that I am not running this year. While my name may remain on the ballot, I am encouraging everyone to vote for Joe Phaneuf. I expect to run in a future year when I would not be opposing someone who has shown themselves to be such a good board member,” he said.
Phaneuf has lived in Old Forge since 2002. His sons Matt and Sam are Town of Webb graduates, and his daughters Maddie and Olivia currently attend Town of Webb school. He has served on the school board since July 2011, when he was appointed to fill Helen Estabrook’s vacated seat.
He has learned a lot in a short period of time. “I’ve been on the school board for a very challenging ten months during which the board has appointed a new superintendent, hired a new principal, and developed a school budget under the new tax cap rules,” he said.
His reasons for being on the board are pretty straightforward. “My primary concern is the quality of the education that our children receive,” he says. “I care very much that we have not just a good school, but a great school—for our children and for our community.”
Clayton Luce will be running against incumbent Sharon Evans for the remainder of a five year term running from May 15, 2012, to June 30, 2016. Evans has held this seat since she was appointed to fill Colin Clark’s vacated seat in December, 2011.
She has lived in the area since 1989, and her husband Jeff is an Eagle Bay native. The couple has two children that attend Town of Webb school.
She has her own accounting and bookkeeping service in Old Forge, VerDack Corp. She believes in lifelong learning and holds degrees in both hotel/restaurant management and accounting.
Since being appointed to the board, she has begun the process of taking classes to become a certified NYS school board member. She has been also been a part of the superintendent and principal selection process, and has taken part in the current year’s budget process.
She feels her analytical and critical thinking skills will serve her well when it comes to the important task of prioritizing, researching, and following through on decisions that affect the education of the student body, while ensuring that all applicable laws and regulations are maintained.
Evans would like to contribute in a more effective way to the decision making process within our children’s educational system, which sparked her interest in the school board. “Because the school system plays such a large part in raising the children of the community, including my own, being a constructive part of the educational decisions has been a long term goal of mine since the kids entered the school system,” she says.
Luce has been a full time Old Forge resident since moving here in 2006 with his wife, Lucy. He is a retired teacher, and holds degrees in engineering and philosophy. He has taught in both inner-city and suburban areas, and in parochial and industrial settings. He’s certified to teach high school level physics and also has experience in the aerospace field.
He is active in the community as a member of the Kiwanis Club, team leader in the 2010 census, member of the historical association, and driver for the CTS van.
To be a successful board member, Luce says you have to be able to “figure out what exactly the problem is, what money is available, and how to best utilize it.”
As a father and a grandfather, he recognizes the unique opportunities that kids have in this area. “The youth of this town have impressed me since first retiring here in Old Forge. Whether on the ski slopes, or the Kiwanis youth adventure days, these young people have shown me that there is something special about growing up here,” he says. “That something special originates in families and as nourished in Kinderwood, the Polar Bears and the school system. As a member of the Town of Webb School board, I would be privileged to help these same youth continue on their road to adulthood.”
Luce says transparency is important between the board members, the students, and the community. He hopes to bring the experiences from his own varied career to the table, and incorporate some fresh, “out of the box” thinking in the school board’s decision making.
The Board of Education has been hosting public information meetings for those who have questions about this year’s school budget. The final meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8, in the Town of Webb School gymnasium. Germer, as well as District Treasurer Jenn Dunn and the majority of the board will be on hand to discuss the budget and answer questions.
Voting will take place from 2 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15, in the school gym. Questions about voter registration or absentee ballots should be directed to District Clerk Diane Kull by calling (315) 369-3222 ext. 2102.