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Clifton-Fine Central School Board adopts budget

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STAR LAKE — The Clifton-Fine Central School Board has adopted a proposed 2014-15 budget that raises the tax levy 0.5 percent while adding an after-school program and summer refresher camp for elementary pupils.

The $10.1 million budget, which is up 4.3 percent from this year’s budget, includes $20,000 for an after-school enrichment program for second to sixth grades to enhance what is being taught in the classroom, Superintendent Regina C. Yeo said.

Each unit might last five to 10 weeks and take place a maximum of three days a week. It could include a book reading competition, Odyssey of the Mind-type activities, gymnastics, robot-building with Legos, or cooking skills.

“We kind of left it open so teachers could come to us,” Mrs. Yeo said.

The program would include bus transportation.

The other new program, included for $5,000 in the budget, is an English or math skills refresher camp for incoming first- to sixth-graders.

“It’s to help those students who have had that summer slippage so they don’t start behind,” Mrs. Yeo said. “We want to have fun activities that strengthen their skills.”

The program would take place in the morning two weeks before the beginning of school. Each class would last for an hour and a half. Pupils could attend one or both, camps, Mrs. Yeo said.

The budget maintains current staff and expands the duties of the administrator in charge of special education. Cynthia A. Healy retired in December as the part-time chairwoman of the committee on special education.

The board changed the position to a full-time, 10-month post, increasing costs by around $30,000 plus benefits. The individual to be hired also will assist with discipline and help with reports required by the state Education Department, Mrs. Yeo said.

Under the proposal, the tax levy would rise $20,000 to $4,028,198. The board is using a combination of property taxes, $994,479 from fund balance and state aid to balance the budget.

The district learned this week it will receive $101,000 more in state aid than it had expected. Mrs. Yeo did not have a projected figure for the district’s remaining fund balance but said it would be adequate.

The Clifton-Fine Property Owners Association took out an advertisement in the community Bargain Hunter to criticize the proposed budget and to advise the public to vote against it, picking out increased spending for administrators and other staff versus the amount of money spent on students.

A representative of the association was not available for comment.

The association’s criticism included returning the collection of taxes to the Fine town clerk rather than keeping it in-house, as has been done for the last two years. The decision to move tax collection out of the school was due to the increased number of people in the school and concerns about security, Mrs. Yeo said.

Other criticisms of the budget by the property owners’ association, such as less money for field trips, occupational education and special education, were based on actual costs and the needs of students in those programs, Mrs. Yeo said.

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