RIPLEY - Ripley Central School's Board of Education public meeting on the proposed budget for 2012-13 Thursday night focused mainly on the board's response to what president Robert Bentley called "character assassination letters."
There were no questions about the budget from residents who attended the meeting on May 3. The public is invited to examine and question the proposed budget before voting on it as well as a new board member on Tuesday, May 15.
Although the budget decreases spending by nearly $30,000 or 0.35 percent from the current year, taxes will be increased $0.96 per $1,000 or 3.08 percent.
Photo by David Prenatt
Residents of the Ripley area attended a public Ripley Central School Board of Education meeting Thursday, May 3 to learn more about the proposed budget for 2012-13.
"This is because state aid decreased sharply due the fact the town assessment was reduced for the first time in decades," board member Ted Rickenbrode said. "That makes for pressure on the tax rate."
Rickenbrode noted the tax increase was within the maximum allowed according to the state's formula.
"It's not a simple 2 percent raise," he said, referring to the state 2 percent cap on raising taxes. "We are within the cap, so the budget needs a simple majority to pass."
District Business Manager Louann Bahgat noted that Ripley had been one of several school district's randomly audited by state officials regarding how it calculated the tax increase, and it had been approved.
"We tried to reduce taxes, but unfortunately we were not able to," she said.
Bentley began the meeting by reading a statement prepared by the board to answer recent attacks on the administrative personnel and the board's process of hiring and determining salary and benefits.
"I hope that this helps the community in terms of what to believe and what to listen to," he said. It amazes me that we have questions on the process when most of the administrators we hired have come from within the ranks of our school."
The document, "Information for the Community," gave a brief historical overview of recent cooperative work with neighboring school and legislators regarding recent interest in a regional school and responded to attacks particularly aimed at Superintendent Karen Krause and Principal Lauren Orsmby.
It noted the members of the district's administrative team not only graduated from Ripley, but have spouses who graduated from there and children who attend there. Members of the team have a combined total of 25 years of formal education, 18 state certifications and degrees and a combined tenure at Ripley of 99 years, the document stated.
The document also stated member of the business team are certified public accountants, have a combined total of 66 years experience in accounting and have membership in two state accounting organizations.
"We have hired from the inside and we have hired from the outside," Bentley said in response to claims the board should have conducted a national search to fill administrative positions. "There is no document I have ever seen that would demonstrate that an outside search would produce better results."
Bentley also criticized claims that administrative salaries were determined in secret.
"I gave out the figures, the background information, everything," he said. "It's all laid out here and we're not hiding anything."
The board has also drawn criticism for staff cuts it has made in the past years. Bentley said these cuts were necessary because of declining enrollment, but were as few as possible.
"When it comes to the people we hire here ... the people that work here are like family here ... there are cuts we refuse to make because the impact is too deep," he said. "It's not something we take lightly."
Voting on the proposed budget will be held from 2 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, May 15 in the Distance Learning Room of the school. Residents will also vote on a candidate to fill the seat being vacated by Melissa Gervasio. Candidates on the ballot are Michael Boll and Dale Kozlowski.