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Springville-Griffith School Board OKs budget with 1% tax rate hike

The Springville-Griffith School Board has adopted a proposed $34.9 million budget for 2013-14 that calls for a 1 percent tax rate increase, or $1.40 per month on a $100,000 home.

Superintendent Paul M. Connelly called the budget “extremely reasonable” because it allows the district to continue all current programs.

The proposal adds a pupil personnel service staff member, who could be a social worker, psychologist or counselor. Connelly said the district is trying to implement a Family Support Center where the district could connect families with any social services needed.

The superintendent lauded the board for making the tough but necessary decisions last year that reduced the district’s expenses through laying off dozens of staff members and reducing programs. “Had the board not done what it did last year, we would be facing a $3.3 million gap now and be insolvent,” Connelly said.

The 2013-14 budget is $1 million higher than the current year, but the tax hike is well below the district’s calculated tax cap of 5.1 percent. Three weeks ago, the administration was considering a 3 percent tax rate increase, but changes in the recent state budget brought $615,257 in additional revenue to the district.

The budget was adopted, 5-2, with board members Janine M. Caimano and Stephen R. Schunk voting no. Caimano said, “I’m not ready to say this is the number. I don’t know what the rush is. I still have questions and concerns.”

She mentioned 11 upcoming retirements in the district and asked whether they generated any savings. Business Administrator Theodore J. Welch said that none of the positions was eliminated but that new hires will come in at lower steps on the salary scale, which will result in lower expenses.

Board Vice President Delia G. Bonenberger conducted the meeting Tuesday, while board President Mel Williams was present via videoconference from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where he connected at about 4:45 a.m.

Also, the board unanimously approved a resolution opposing field tests. Board member Kara M. Kane, the sponsor, said the tests use students as “guinea pigs” and are not state assessments. She said they are conducted by a private company that does not share results with students or teachers.