Board of Education agrees to exceed state tax levy cap; could change mind as budget process evolves

Facing a more than $1 million shortfall at this early stage of budget development, the Board of Education on Monday voted 5-2 to exceed the school district’s state tax levy cap, which allows for a 1.27% increase in the 2022-23 school year.

However, this motion was in order to file a report with the state comptroller’s office. Because it is so early in the budget process, this is non-binding and can be reversed with no consequences.

Here is Swartz’s presentation.

Under the state tax levy formula, Scotia-Glenville would only be allowed to increase taxes by $393,021, leaving the $1.08 million budget shortfall.

Superintendent Susan Swartz presented information showing that, if the entire budget shortfall were passed on to taxpayers and no reductions were made to the budget, a home assessed at $200,000 would face a school tax increase of $225 per year, or $18.75 per month. In that case, the tax increase would be 4.76% and the tax rate would increase to $24.79 per $1,000 assessed value.

Swartz on February 14 presented a carry-forward budget that totals $61.36 million for the 2022-23 school year, an increase of $2.23 million over the current year’s budget of $59.12 million. a 3.78% increase.

After all revenue increases (state aid) are accounted for, the preliminary plan shows a budget shortfall of $1.08 million. The eight-step state tax levy formula will allow S-G to increase taxes by a maximum of 1.27% in the coming school year.

Community voting on the 2022-23 school budget will be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17 in the B-wing gym at the high school. In order to exceed the state’s tax levy cap, at least 60% of the community would need to approve the proposed budget. S-G has exceed the state tax levy cap once, in 2014.

Negotiables and non-negotiables

Board members discussed their “negotiables” and “non-negotiables” when it came to budget reductions. Each board member mentioned “non-negotiables” or no reductions to mental health programs but also mentioned other areas such as AP and College in the High School courses and fine arts and athletics programs.

Among the “negotiables,”  some board members said they would look again at the athletic trainer (funding with federal money this year) and the fact that S-G still offers three languages, Spanish, French and German.

5-2 in favor of exceeding the state tax cap

Board of Education President David Bucciferro voted against telling the comptroller that the district would consider exceeding the tax levy cap. “I can’t make a decision without seeing all of the figures,” he said, noting that budget shortfalls have been filled painlessly in the past. “Until I see everything, I can not commit to doing something that will put an additional burden on the community.”

Board member Rick Frederick also opposed telling the comptroller’s office that we’d consider going over the tax cap. “I think we need to see more about the budget before I make that decision,” he said.

Swartz pointed out that, to save $1 million, the budget would have to cut eight teachers and four teaching assistants. “However, if we don’t replace retirees, we can get to about half of that (shortfall),” she added, noting that she was not proposing to cut any teachers or TAs.

“There is no way to do this without some pain,” said Swartz. “I want to do what is best for our students. I will come back with something for you to look at. And remember, you can change your minds anyways (with the comptroller’s report).”

“I would consider it (exceeding the cap), but it’s not my first choice,” said board member Dan Feinberg. “Our only choice is to cut things or raise taxes.”

Board member Hal Talbot, noting that being forced to submit a report to the comptroller’s office this early in the budget process is ridiculous, said he would support overriding the tax levy “because I don’t want to cut teachers and other things that we would need to cut.” He said he thought most people would be willing to pay $18.75 per month to keep what we have now for programs.

Board member Pam Carbone said having to just increase taxes by 1.27% was very difficult. “With inflation what it is right now, there is no way we can get by with just 1.27%,” she said.

Board member Kim Talbot, who originally had opposed overriding the cap, changed her mind. She noted that we could do some reductions but may still need an increase of more than 1.27%. “So if we go over by say 1% or something a bit higher, that is still overriding the cap,” she said.

Board member David Massaro said he would override the cap “because of all that kids need now, especially after COVID.” He felt our program right now was at least trying to meet the needs and to cut the program would hurt children.