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S-G school district proposes budget that exceeds tax cap

Friday, April 18, 2014
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— The Scotia-Glenville Board of Education is seeking the public’s support in getting the budget passed.

That’s nothing new.

But this year, it needs a 60-percent super-majority of voters because the budget exceeds the state tax cap, which is down to .27 percent for the school district.

The proposed $50.78 million spending plan increases spending by 3.33 percent and raises taxes by a maximum of 1.76 percent, and would allow the district to keep programming at current levels. The two largest increases are in instruction and employee benefits, as salaries and benefits make up 79 percent of the budget.

The school board adopted the budget April 7 and the plan will go before the voters May 20.

“We can’t keep cutting away at our programs — there really is no place left to eliminate that will not dramatically change the reputation and offerings at Scotia-Glenville,” Superintendent Susan Swartz said in a news release. “We have done that for four years and that is enough. Our kids mean too much to hurt them by cutting away their programs.”

Over the last four years, the district has eliminated 75 full-time positions. About 25 percent of those were teaching positions, Swartz said. Over that time, the district dealt with the loss of more than $12 million in state aid through the Gap Elimination Adjustment, and expects to lose $1.91 million in 2014-15.

To stay within the cap, the district would have to cut spending by $409,365. That could come from eliminating most high school electives, cuts to athletics and clubs, eliminating elementary door monitors and attendance secretaries, a reduction of the district’s technology replacement plan and reducing full-day kindergarten to half-day, Swartz said.

Swartz, who was instrumental in bringing full-day kindergarten to the district three years ago, said considering reducing it to half-day “breaks my heart.”

The cap is much lower from last year, when it was set at 4.46 percent, because the district had fewer expenses to exclude in areas such as capital projects and payments in lieu of taxes, Swartz said. The cap also dropped with the rate of inflation.

The proposed budget maintains all existing academic programs, creates a one-year position for a Lead Teacher of Instructional Technology, creates an additional section of a Life Skills class at the high school and adds a section of the First Beginnings program for elementary students with autism.

The only position removed from the budget is a network administrator, but that employee took a job with another school district and Scotia-Glenville will receive technology administrative services through Capital Region BOCES, Swartz said.

The 1.76-percent tax levy increase amounts to an estimated $62.40 jump for a home assessed at $160,000. Swartz said the tax increase could be as low as 1.17 percent, however, because town of Glenville assessments have grown by about $7.2 million in the past year, which could add about $160,000 to the tax rolls.

Because the proposed budget exceeds the tax cap, STAR-eligible homeowners would not be able to receive a tax rebate included in the state budget amounting to an estimated $51.32.

Voters also will weigh in on a proposed $427,000 purchase of two 65-passenger buses, three 28-passenger buses and one 28-passenger bus with wheelchair accessibility. The bus purchases will not affect the 2014-15 budget and the estimated cost to the district, after aid and including interest, is $143,250.

A budget hearing is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at the middle school.

 
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