RIPLEY - If all goes well, Ripley residents could see a reduction in their school taxes of more than 5 percent in the coming year.
Ripley Central School Board of Education reviewed a preliminary budget for the 2014-15 year that would entail a tax rate decrease of approximately 5.3 percent or $1.50 per $1,000, according to district business manager Louann Bahgat and board member Ted Rickenbrode.
The board still has a regular meeting on April 10 and a special meeting on April 27 before the budget needs to be finalized and submitted to the state.
Rickenbrode reported to the board that revenues were expected to be $6,301,817 or an increase of 4.5 percent, while anticipated expenditures total $8,718,142 or an increase of 4.2 percent. "We still have some tweaking to do," he said.
Rickenbrode said that this budget would serve as a "base year" as far as having accurate figures. "We had a lot of best guesses last year, (on account of being the first year high school students were tuitioned to Chautauqua Lake Central School). This year we have good figures," he said.
Salaries are expected to decrease by 8 percent and benefits are expected to drop by 6.7 percent, Rickenbrode said.
Equipment costs are expected to rise because of the need for a new telephone system, new computers and a new wireless system, Baghat said.
Baghat said it was a "conservative" budget. "We don't know exactly where figures will land, but we think we're pretty close," she said.
In other business, superintendent Dr. Lauren Ormsby reported on changes in the school calendar. Because of the changes in state assessment testing, the district was obliged to rearrange its school break schedule, she said.
There will be no break in February and just one break in March, Ormsby said. This will allow the district to end the school year about a week and a half earlier than usual.
This arrangement will work well with the district's plans to pilot a new summer school program by adding a couple of weeks of break before the program begins, Ormsby said.
The next regular meeting is April 10 at 6:30 p.m.
The board heard a presentation by teacher aide Dan Kondrick on an after-school program that uses the three-dimensional building game Minecraft. Students in the program work together to build structures one block at a time.. Kondrick told that board that there are three groups one that is building a city community; one that has been building house; and one that has constructed a castle.
Kondrick told the board that it was exciting to see 28 students working together. "It was a little hectic at first, but once we got the kinks worked out, it was great."
The board also accepted the retirement of long-time school counselor Gregory Beardsley.
Ripley head bus driver Rhonda Nelson reported on a $10,000 grant she secured to retrofit eight buses with heaters in order to warm them up without having to let the engine idle for a half-hour.
Ormsby also reported that construction on the area of the building that the town will be leasing is almost complete. All that remains is the installation of special security doors to separate the school from the area. The doors are expected to arrive on April 3, she said.