MONROE - For the upcoming school year, the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District projects an increase of more than 50 kindergarten students over the number it had in the 2003 program. This type of growth projection is the number one driving force for the 2004/2005 school budget. "We are growing by over one student per day. This budget is exclusively growth driven," said Superintendent Terrence Olivo. The proposed operating budget will be listed on the ballot as Proposition I. More than $61,000,000, just over 50 percent, of the proposed $112,277,831 budget is slated for instruction. This includes, but is not limited to, funding for salaries, curriculum development, textbooks, and the district-wide interscholastic athletics program. Community services and undistributed funding are responsible for the second largest appropriation. Community services include the summer enrichment programs, various swim programs and driving instruction, and undistributed funds include employee benefits, which consist of retirement plans and social security. Unfunded mandates by the state have also had a great impact on the budget. The district absorbs 100 percent of these costs. This consists of things like automatic external difribulation (AED) machines, English as a second language programs, and curriculum changes which require new textbooks. If the budget is not approved, the district will have three choices. They may propose the same budget to voters, propose a revised budget to voters, or adopt a contingency budget. The latter would require a scaling down to bare essentials. Core programs like math and English would be safe, but programs like music, art, interscholastic sports and those for the gifted and talented would be reduced. The proposed budget will require an average tax rate increase estimated at 5.7 percent. An exact tax rate will be determined once the district receives property value assessments for all property within the district and the equalization rates set by the state for the five towns which make up the district. "This is a modest increase when viewed with respect to the continual sustained growth of our student population. The board worked hard to have a budget sensitive to the tax payer and also meet our needs," said Olivo. "I think the budget is a reasonable and responsible budget and that there is a balance between concern for the taxpayer and providing the district with the funding necessary to provide a quality education for all students," he added. Proposition II is the Proposed Transportation Bond. The public is being asked to authorize the district to purchase wo new wheelchair buses, 10 mid-sized buses (four currently being leased and six new), 12 new large buses, and snow removal equipment, which is currently contracted. "Monroe-Woodbury buses travel a combined 9,000 miles per day, transporting over 8,000 children. We try to replace on a 12 year cycle, at approximately 17,000 miles. The new buses have better safety provisions and features, and they are environmentally friendly." New buses were not purchased last year because this proposition was defeated. Also on the ballot are the elections for school board members. The candidates are Claire Perez and Camille Mulkeen, who are both currently seated, and Elizabeth Levine. Board members serve three year terms. They provide service voluntarily, without compensation. The current seats expire June 30, and the new ones will begin July 1. In order to vote on Proposition I, Proposition II, and school board elections, you must be registered with the school district or Orange County election officials. Registration ended yesterday, Thursday, May 13. Voting will take place on Tuesday, May 18 at Central Valley Elementary located on Route 32. Booths will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. For absentee ballot information, contact District Clerk Eleanor Varian at 845-928 2321 ext. 201.