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Local News

March 30, 2013

Area schools: Cap isn't realistic

(Continued)

In the component districts of Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES, the allowable rates range from about 3 percent to more than 7 percent, Rowley said.

Schools have to use the formula and submit it to a state audit, so taxpayers can be assured it is accurate, he said.

This is the second year the law has been in effect. The levy at Oneonta was 1.81 percent for 2012-13. Because the vote was tied to a referendum to keep Center Street Elementary School open, the budget required the 60 percent majority but passed. The board of education will have to make a decision on the rate by its April 17 meeting.

Unadilla Valley Central School Superintendent Robert Mackey said his board will probably adopt a budget significantly below the allowable tax cap of 6 percent April 15. The biggest factors in the allowable rate are the retirement service expenses.

“It’s probably that way everywhere,” he said. The district is facing retirement service increases of about 20 percent.

The district tried and failed to have voters approve a budget above the tax cap last year, though they did approve one that fell within the acceptable limit at 2.4 percent. The key this year is to be open, and share how the process works, he said.

At Sidney Central School, the allowable cap is 5.9 percent because of retirement service and some other required costs, but Superintendent Bill Christensen said the rate will probably be zero or less when the board approves it. The levy increase for 2012-13 was 2.2 percent.

He said knows of very few districts that are at the 2 percent rate for the allowable cap for the upcoming year — most are much higher than that.

“We really struggle just getting people to understand how schools are funded,” and a 2-percent cap complicates the situation that much more, he said. Payments to the two retirement services have gone up for 2013-14 by 14 percent and 17 percent, along with transportation and capital costs.

The board of education is still deciding on the tax levy increase, but with the reduction of costs as revenues and enrollment have declined, it will probably zero or lower, Christensen said.

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