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Proposed Shen tax is smallest rise in 4 years

Sunday, April 14, 2013
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— An increase in state aid will allow Shenendehowa Central School District administrators to recommend on Tuesday that the school board adopt a 2013-14 budget that would include the smallest tax increase in four years.

Administrators wouldn’t release numbers prior to the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, because the board hasn’t seen their recommendation or weighed in on it yet. But the board is expected to vote on Tuesday.

Last month, officials proposed a $156.1 million budget for next year that included a 3.69 percent tax levy increase and an actual average tax rate increase of 3.18 percent.

After that, the state passed its own budget, which gives Shenendehowa $1.7 million more in state money than the district expected.

Kathleen Wetmore, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, plans to recommend on Tuesday that the board use most of that money to lessen the tax increase and use some of it to enhance programs. So her new proposal will include a little more in spending than the district pitched last month.

Still, “We anticipate having the lowest tax rate increase in four years,” she said.

Whether the board takes Wetmore’s new recommendation or votes to spend $156.1 million like she proposed before, the tax levy increase will fall well within the state-imposed limit, which next year for Shenendehowa is 5.89 percent.

Like most local school districts, Shenendehowa’s single biggest increase over this year’s $151.4 million budget is pension costs.

Payments to the state retirement funds will rise by $3.1 million, Wetmore said.

But unlike most school districts, Shen’s health insurance premiums will stay flat next year because the district will pass on higher co-pays to employees.

Next year may be the first in several years that the district keeps the same number of jobs. At the beginning of this school year, the district cut 11 positions through not replacing people who retired.

For next year, the district again will not replace departing employees in grades with declining enrollment, but will hire more workers for growing areas, thereby keeping the same total number of jobs.

For example, Wetmore said the district’s elementary grades have seen enrollment decreases and may not need as many teachers, but programs that teach English as a second language are growing and may get more staff.

Voters will go to the polls May 21 to vote on the school budget. They also will select three people for the school board.

Petitions can still be filed for people seeking a seat on the Board of Education.

The seats of Gary DiLallo, Andrew McCarty and Richard Mincher are up for re-election. All are three-year terms.

The petition deadline is 4 p.m. April 22.

 
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