Superintendent Seth Turner is predicting this year’s school budget will increase taxes by about 3.5 percent.
On the face of it, that exceeds the state’s two percent property tax cap, but the law allows some items to be left out of the calculation, so this budget would not exceed the cap. A budget that exceeds the cap requires the approval of 60 percent of voters.
The budget and trustee vote will be held May 21.
Turner emphasized that the numbers are based on estimates and could change. Enrollment is always a wild card, this year even more so as between 60 and 90 students from St. Mary of the Snow could potentially enter the district. The district is expecting overall enrollment to fall and is eliminating two teacher positions in the coming budget. Coming to an agreement on a new contract with the teacher’s union would also affect finances.
Expenditures stand at $55,632,329, an increase of $955,349 over this year, or 1.65 percent. The tax levy – the amount to be raised by property taxes – would come to $36,426,569, up $1,231,816 (3.5 percent) from this year’s $35,194,753.
A discussion at the March 4 meeting addressed the unallocated fund balance: should the board put a higher budget, which would increase taxes by 4.1 percent but still come in under the tax cap, to vote, and use the revenue for its rainy day fund? The proposed budget calls for using $600,000 from the district’s fund balance, up from $300,000 this year. Trustee Teresa Bach-Tucker suggested the district use the fund balance to reduce taxes if it fails at the polls.
“I think that’s a discussion the board needs to have,” said business administrator Donald Gottlieb.
Turner said the goal is to have the budget completed by April 9.
Turner had a list of items that could change the budget between now and the final passage. Student enrollment topped the list. “Next week is our kindergarten registration period, and I have to implore as many people as possible – if you, or someone you know, has a child who will turn five by December 2013, please enroll them in kindergarten. It is imperative that we accurately staff our schools,” he said.
Looking ahead, Turner said that while elementary school enrollment has declined, secondary enrollments have held steady. He expects these enrollments will begin to decline in the next two years, allowing some reduction in staff at that level.
On the revenue side, the school district could lose about $60,000 if St. Mary’s school closes. This is money Saugerties could have billed these students’ home districts for health services it provides these students, Gottlieb said.
The next meeting will be held Tuesday, March 12, 7 p.m. at Cahill Elementary School, 134 Main St.