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Edgemont Schools Waiting for Key Budget Data

EDGEMONT, N.Y. – The message coming out of the Edgemont School District office regarding the 2012-13 budget is that the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain.

Like every school district in New York, Edgemont is facing the realities brought about by the state's new 2 percent property tax levy cap this year, a cap that could force deep cuts in school and municipal budgets.

At the heart of the problem are state mandates for local payments into pension plans. There are no exemptions for mandated contributions to either professional or non-professional employee retirement systems, which are expected to grow by about 14 percent, according to published reports. Health insurance costs are also expected to grow well beyond 2 percent, and schools are dealing with negotiated union contracts that call for raises that exceed the figure as well.

Edgemont Schools Superintendent Nancy Taddiken said that she would like to be able to give the public a more realistic look at what the district is up against, but she is missing some key figures. "We don't yet know two major numbers: what our pension contribution figure will be and health insurance costs," she said. "We can make certain assumptions, but we don't have real figures. And with the assessment going down" because of falling property values, "It's going to cause a major spike as far as what taxpayers need to address."

In November, Taddiken told a packed house at a Board of Education meeting that cuts to keep the district within the cap limit would be drastic, and could include fewer elective courses, cuts in foreign languages, and staff reductions. Cuts could also hit sports and extra-curricula activities, she said.

An alternative would be to propose a budget that would exceed the cap and hope that 60 percent of the voters would approve the override.

"We're still in the preliminary stages" of the budget process, Taddiken said. "We're not at a point where we are ready to ask the community for an override. There's not enough information."

Taddiken said she expects the subject to come up at the next board meeting Jan. 10, but that more substantive discussions would likely not take place until meetings on Jan. 17 or 24. A budget study session is planned for Feb. 7. A budget proposal will be presented in mid-March, and voters will be asked to approve the final budget May 15.

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