RIPLEY - Ripley School District's projected budget for the coming year is not too different from the current year, board members were told at their regular meeting Thursday, March 29.
Board member Ted Rickenbrode told the board, thanks largely to conservative appropriation requests from teachers and staff, the projected budget for the 2012-13 school year should reflect "only very minor changes from last year."
In fact, Rickenbrode noted, projected appropriations were down from last year by about $29,000. Salaries and benefits were down overall as well.
"Everybody was very good about giving back," he said. "Working with the staff helped us close the gap."
Superintendent Karen Krause commended the district's staff and teachers for their fiscal responsibility.
"They only requested what they need to comply with the district requirements," she said.
The budget still faces many challenges, Rickenbrode noted. A decrease in the town assessment will have a negative impact on revenue. Furthermore, while overall health costs are also not expected to increase, both employee retirement and teacher retirement services - ERS and TRS - are expected to increase, offsetting the gains made by appropriation, he said.
Also, while the state has yet to distribute $200 million in aid, Krause said Ripley should not expect very much.
The board will finalize the budget at its April 19 meeting.
"We'll have all the details then, but were not expecting major changes from our projections," Rickenbrode said.
In a related matter, board president Robert Bentley noted questions have often been posed regarding the board's commitment to political involvement. However, board members have been extremely active in recent years.
"I guess we don't go around tooting our own horn," he said. "We really have become politically active because we have to. It's the only way we will survive."
Bentley said board members have attended at least 85 percent of the educational meetings in Chautauqua County.
"We don't mean a lot to Albany, but we're there when we can be and we're loud," he said. 'We've been doing this a long time and this is the best board I have ever seen do this. We do it well."
Superintendent Krause noted she and other administrators from local school districts meet consistently with the BOCES district representative to keep abreast of developments in education.
"Educational reform is just unbelievable," she said. "We have to stay involved just to keep up."
In another matter, Bentley asked the board to consider a request from Westfield Academy and Central School District to participate in a discussion to move toward consolidation among area school districts. This is one of many possible directions in which the school could move, he said.
"We find ourselves in an odd situation," Bentley said. "All of a sudden, a lot of good options are coming at us, but none are at our fingertips."
Other options include a consolidation with Chautauqua Lake Central School District and the possibility of a regional high school.
"Let's keep all of the doors and avenues open," Bentley said.
Superintendent Krause reported, even though the option of regional high school is not possible for next year, it remains a viable option for the future. There have been several votes on mergers and consolidations in the past 25 years, she noted. While Ripley has solidly resisted votes to be annexed into the Westfield district, it has voted for mergers, but these have been defeated by Westfield or Mayville districts.