For the first time in four years, the Alden School Board is feeling optimistic about its proposed budget.

The 2013-14 financial plan does not contain any cuts to programs or staff. The district is expecting a net increase in state financial aid for the first time since 2008-09, and its proposed $33.15 million budget represents a 3.56 percent increase – $1.14 million – from that of the 2012-13 school year.

In order to fund the increase, the board is proposing a 3 percent increase in the property tax levy, which would be $236,831 below the tax cap limit.

The board held its annual budget hearing in the high school’s library Tuesday evening.

“We’re under the tax cap, and substantially so – almost 2 percent under the tax cap – and we’re preserving programs,” said School Superintendent Lynn Marie Fusco. “That’s a very big difference from where we’ve been the past four years. We’ve had to reduce programs, lay teachers off, lay staff off. It’s been very difficult.”

Fusco facilitated the meeting and School Business Administrator Paul Karpik presented the budget in PowerPoint form to 13 people in attendance.

The school district expects an increase of $559,000 in state aid. Despite the increase, Alden’s state aid is still $1.2 million less than it was in 2008-09.

This year’s budget proposal includes an expenditure of $460,000 from the voter-approved School Bus Reserve Fund to buy new school buses.

The budget also proposes to cut BOCES programs by $92,585, which is offset by a $154,000 increase in the district’s special-education private placement tuition.

Fusco said though the community has offered plenty of feedback regarding the budget in previous years, there hasn’t been much dialogue this year. “I’m not sure how to read that,” Fusco said.

Alden residents will vote on the budget, as well as one of the seven School Board seats, between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday. James Yoerg is the only candidate for the School Board position.

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