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Proposed budget invests in academics; no in increase tax levy

2014-15 proposed budget builds program, includes no tax levy increase

On Tuesday, May 20, Berne-Knox-Westerlo residents will vote on a $21,921,272 budget for the 2014-15 school year.
The proposed budget includes a spending increase of $387,472, from the 2013-14 budget and carries a projected tax levy increase of zero percent. Residents will also vote on a bus proposition and elect two candidates to the school board.

The 2014-15 budget includes over $1 million in academic additions that are partially offset by roughly $880,000 in non-academic reductions.

Planning for the 2014-15 school budget focused on the educational program at BKW – assessing what the program currently is and what it should be. Interim Superintendent Lonnie Palmer, along with other administrators and teachers, analyzed test scores, observed student understanding and achievement and took a close look at course availability.

Throughout the school year, Palmer detailed to the community and Board the results of this research, and discussed why he recommended focusing the budget on improving BKW’s educational program.  He acknowledged test scores are comparatively low to other rural districts of BKW’s size and recommended strengthening enrichment programs and electives and restoring supports for struggling students that were cut in previous years.

Click here to read community feedback on Palmer's recommendations [PDF].

Click here to read community feedback on the proposed additions and reductions from March's community forum [PDF].

“Our job as a district is to give as many educational opportunities as possible to our students,” said Palmer. “We heard from many parents of current students who worried about class offerings. One parent expressed that his daughter would be taking five study halls her senior year because she’d already exhausted her course options. That’s a problem the Board and administration agreed needs to be rectified immediately.”

While the Board and administration agreed that improvements to the educational program were needed, the Board stressed this should not be done at the expense of raising the tax levy, as community feedback showed that many felt taxes were already high.

“In order to secure funds for improving academics without raising taxes, we had to look at reductions to the non-instructional areas of the district,” said Palmer. “You never want to be in a position to make any reductions, but with the funding issues many districts around our state are facing, the money needs to come from somewhere. Some of these reductions have been completed and some will take effect at the beginning of the next school year.”

The reductions add up to $880,966 and do not include any savings the district attained through new teacher and support staff contract agreements [click here for information on the new contracts].

While state aid for BKW in 2014-15 is expected to increase by $543,663 over 2013-14, the district is still losing $948,061 in aid to the Gap Elimination Adjustment [click here for more on state aid], and a portion of the aid increase will be used to repair the flood damage that took place earlier this school year.