RIPLEY - The Ripley Central School Board of Education reviewed its 2014-15 budget as well as a proposed $2 million planned facilities improvement project at a recent public hearing meeting.
Six Ripley residents attended the special meeting, which was held after the board's regular meeting for May.
If approved at the May 20 public vote, the budget will decrease the tax levy by nearly 5 percent or $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Finance committee chairperson Ted Rickenbrode described the $8,681,652 budget as "reflective" of future budgets.
"We have nearly a year of data (since students in grades 7-12 were tuitioned to Chautauqua Lake Central School) and we know where we are at," Rickenbrode said. "We're making sure that we remain financially sound and that we remain here for many years."
The district's business administrator, Louann Bahgat, said the financial committee tried to keep the budget as conservative as possible. "I think there's a better comfort level. We know more now than last year," she said.
Rickenbrode noted that, once the budget is approved, the expenditures will be fixed. "What you are voting on is what we are going to spend. Once voted on, we cannot spend more than that," he said.
However, he said, the exact revenue is impossible to ascertain at this time because aid from the state could fluctuate and the property assessment values will not be finalized by the county until August.
"If the value of the town goes up dramatically, the tax rate will go down," he said.
Also on hand at the hearing was Ron Kessler, of the Jamestown architectural firm Sandberg Kessler, who gave a brief power-point presentation reviewing the proposed facilities project that voters will also approve or reject on May 20.
The project involves an estimated $.6 million in construction costs along with $300,000 in "soft costs," Kessler said. State EXCEL (Expanding our Children's Education and Learning) funds are expected to cover nearly all of the costs.
The project will largely involve maintenance issues, both inside and outside, Kessler said. It will include replacing and repairing damaged sidewalks and parking areas: replacing a section of the roof; re-pointing and caulking the building masonry; improving acoustics; replacing damaged woodwork in the 1940s library; and replacing two 1968 boilers.
Ripley resident Joan Hart asked why the boilers were being replaced and all of this work done when "the town is dying."
Board President Robert Bentley responded that some of the school's boilers were replaced and work done in 2002, but the district decided not to replace them all in order to remain under $10 million. "As far as the town dying, we still have an obligation to keep this building maintained," he said.
Dave Hart expressed the opinion that the tuitioning of the high school students was a success, but asked if there were any plans to attract elementary students from surrounding districts.
Superintendent Dr. Lauren Ormsby said that the district was expanding its summer program and developing a 3-year-old program with that purpose in mind. "In order to make that happen, this has to be the best elementary school possible," she said.
On May 20 voters will also be asked to approve the purchase of two new school buses totaling $245,000.
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