With a very small state tax levy cap increase of 0.13%, the Board of Education is considering exceeding the state cap.
The cap means that the 8-step state formula to determine the tax levy cap will allow S-G to increase spending by $40,310 in the 2021-22 school year. “This is an extremely small increase allowed by the state,” said Superintendent Susan Swartz. “No nearly $60-million organization could survive with a $40,000 increase in spending with all of the challenges we are facing today,” she said.
Swartz on February 22 presented the “carry-forward budget” for the 2021-22 school year. That budget continues every program and staff person currently in the school budget (though it does take into account the 11 staff retirements that have been approved so far). The figures show spending increasing by 2.01% or $1.1 million in the 2021-22 school year. The 2021-22 carry forward budget totals $59.3 million, an increase from the current school year budget of $58.1 million.
The gap between revenue and spending in the carry-forward budget is $785,956. If there were no reductions, that would lead to a 2.66% tax levy increase – something Swartz said the school district will avoid. She proposed cutting about $400,000 from the budget to bring the tax increase down to around 1.5% or less.
Board members asked what prior tax increases had been at Scotia-Glenville. Business Administrator Andrew Giaquinto stated that they had been around 2% on average over past ten years, which also included two years with tax rate reductions.
“I don’t know where we’re going to be in September 2021,” said Swartz. “There are going to be several things that we just do not know the answers to. I don’t know if we will be fully back in September. I don’t know if we will offer a fully virtual option. I don’t know what’s happening with New York State assessments.”
She said there are so many variables that will become more clear as spring and the end of the school year approaches. “We don’t have all the answers. As we have always done, we will make the best decisions we can at the time and things may change,” she said. “I want us to be cautious and to be thoughtful. We will do the best we can with the information that we have.”
Preparing for the March 1 meeting
She asked BOE members to come to the March 1 meeting with an idea of programs they would like to keep and programs they’d consider reducing or eliminating.
She noted that S-G had to pay nearly $500,000 extra during this school year for things like sanitizing school classrooms, providing extra meals and other items related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Technically, the Board of Education agreed to tell the state by its March 1 deadline that the school district will exceed its tax cap. Board of Education President David Bucciferro noted that it is not binding but the state requests that information by March 1.
If the board were to exceed the tax cap, at least 60% of the community must approve the budget during voting on May 18.
The Board of Education last asked the community to override a low tax levy cap in the 2014-15 budget. At that time, the state’s tax levy cap for Scotia-Glenville was 0.27%. The community approved a 1.76% increase in the cap.
Bucciferro asked about federal stimulus proposals. Giaquinto said that the December stimulus money for schools have been absorbed into state aid figures included in the budget. Current stimulus discussions may be different but there are no details at this point. However, that money would be a one-time benefit and not something you could build a budget upon. It would help to reimburse the budget for the COVID-related costs the district paid for this school year.
The community decides on May 18
On May 18 (unless the date is changed as happened last year), the S-G community will consider these proposals:
- 2021-22 school budget
- $493,000 bus purchase proposal for four new buses
- $12.8 million capital project for roofs, furnaces and public address systems at all six schools
- Selecting two Board of Education members. The terms of current Board of Education members David Massaro and Hal Talbot expire this year.