RIPLEY - Ripley Central School District's public hearing on a proposed 2013-14 budget ended up being little more than a formality Thursday, May 9 as very few residents attended and even fewer asked any questions.
The budget of $8,370,065 must be approved by a public vote Tuesday, May 21. Polls will be open from 2 to 8 p.m. in the Distance Learning Room 123. The figure represents a decrease of $148,660 or 1.75 percent from the 2012-13 budget
The budget includes a tax levy of $2,140,341, a decrease of 4.05 percent from the current year.
The decrease in the budget was a result of the district's decision to tuition students in grades seven through 12 to Chautauqua Lake Central School District in the coming year.
Only about seven residents attended the hearing. Of those, Darwin Rowe asked about two rumors he said he heard. The first was that it was illegal to conduct the vote for the budget on school grounds, and the second was that the district could be "hiding $1 million" in its budget that could have been used to keep the school open.
The district's attorney David Farmelo answered the first question saying there is nothing in the state guidelines for a budget vote stipulating the location.
"I would be more concerned if it were held outside of the school," he said. "I've not heard of any school district that holds its vote outside of its district premises."
In response to a related issue of who is allowed to vote, Farmelo noted one must be a resident to vote, not just own property within the district.
District Business Manager LouAnn Bahgat answered the question about hidden funds, noting all the reserves in the budget are legal and are restricted, meaning the money in them can only be used for a designated purpose.
"It's right in front of everyone's face," she said. "All they have to do is open up the audit report."
"We have internal auditors and external auditors," Board President Robert Bentley said. "We've had nothing but glowing results from them."
During the regular board meeting prior to the public hearing, Principal Lauren Ormsby reported on several transition activities taking place to help students in grades seven through 12 prepare to attend CLCS. Shadow days, in which a student from Ripley will be paired with a CLCS student for a day, begin next week, she said. The CLCS band will be coming to Ripley for a presentation soon, and the student leadership councils have been meeting.
Ripley Superintendent Karen Krause reported she has been working with the transportation department regarding bus routes for next year, and it seems to be working out.
"I don't think any extra hiring will be needed," she said.
In a related matter, Krause said discussions with the Town of Ripley and the Ripley Free Library to rent space in the school building are "moving forward."
"It's in the discussion stage, and we are brainstorming," Krause said. "I believe that the library has serious interest in our building."
The date for the next board meeting was changed to Monday, June 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Distance Learning Room.