Chenango Forks: Budgeting as a single school

By Michelle Costanza

February 28, 2014 Updated Feb 28, 2014 at 12:58 AM EDT

Town of Chenango, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Following an 85 percent vote to turn down a merger with the Chenango Valley School District, Chenango Forks is on it's own to fill budget gaps.

Superintendent Joe Peck says that instituting a spending freeze helped keep their budget gap from skyrocketing and will likely prevent cuts to staff and programs this year, but the gap for the 2014-15 school year is larger than what was expected last year.

The district is faced with finding funds to cover a deficit of $328,086.

The state is expected to kick in $16 million in aid for the districts $31 million budget. Filling the rest without cuts would require a 9.75 percent tax levy increase, which would exceed the state's limit for Chenango Forks. It would also require 60 percent of voters to give their approval.

"We can't go out at that," said Kathy Blackman, CPA Controller for the Central Business Office at Broome-Tioga BOCES.

Instead, Superintendent Joe Peck said the school board has settled on a 6.7 percent levy.

"Were going out with that tax levy to maintain the staff we have and make our school viable for the next four to five years," said Peck.

At the board of education meeting Thursday night, School Board President Don Edwards explained the district is better off with taxes than if a merger would have been approved by voters.

"The merger tax levy projection was going to be between 12.5 and 13 percent if we merged. That was due to a leveling up of the taxes from Chenango Forks to Chenango Valley, what we're going to do it contain that."

However, during a meeting in November, Blackman said long-term projections show the district would steadily reduce their bottom line and lose even more money by 2017, according to Action News archives.

She also said during the same meeting Chenango Forks residents would likely see an average annual tax increase of nearly $300. Without the merger, the district would need a 12.5-percent tax levy increase, which would also raise taxes by nearly $300, story archives show.

Board members said Thursday there is still much to be determined as contracts are negotiated and state aid is finalized.

There was no mention of cuts at the meeting, but Peck noted that dipping into reserve funding seems like one of the most feasible options to chip away at the deficit.

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