Dundee will vote on 3 percent tax levy increase
DUNDEE—The Dundee Central School Board will be voting to adopt a budget that includes a three percent tax levy increase for the 2012-13 academic year. Superintendent Kathy Ring made the decision during the March 22 meeting after hearing opinions from board members about the most feasible ways to help close the $581,282 gap currently facing the district. A vote on adopting a final spending plan will take place Wednesday, April 4.
The budget for the current school year in Dundee is $13,831,863. That number is currently expected to rise to $14,413,145 (4.2 percent increase) for next year. Ring noted those projections were based off a two percent tax raise. The superintendent briefly discussed the two percent tax cap put in effect for 2012 by N.Y. State. The law involves an eight-step process school districts must use to determine a tax levy limit. Even with its definition, the legislation does not necessarily require the levy to be increased by two percent. Ring noted the DCS tax levy could be raised as high as 8.8 percent for 2012-13.
During the meeting, Ring told the board she wanted to hear discussion on whether the budget should be tightened by raising taxes or utilizing more reserve funds. While appropriating more reserves would enable Dundee to keep the tax levy at two percent, concerns were expressed that such a decision would not be sustainable for the district. Paul Brown mentioned the state has been cutting funding to schools. Therefore, DCS must make sure to preserve additional funds. “I would like to use as little reserves as possible,” Brown stated. Jared Webster also said he felt raising the tax levy would put the district in a better financial position down the road. “If it (the tax levy) is a higher number, you are setting yourself up better,” he noted.
Even with the tax levy exceeding two percent, board members in Dundee still expressed confidence that district taxpayers would still approve the final budget when it is time for a final vote. School Board President James Koehler said the district has usually implied a three percent tax increase in past years. “I think we would be safe at three percent,” he spoke. Joseph Capurso mentioned DCS has always received strong support for the surrounding community. Capurso explained he originally wanted to keep the tax levy at two percent. Yet, he changed his mind after hearing comments made by fellow board members. Business Manager Melissa Lawson did warn about this being the first budget process with the newly enacted tax cap law. She explained due to name of the legislation, residents could get the wrong impression if the levy is greater than two percent.
During the previous school board meeting, DCS anticipated a budget of $14,380,851 for 2012-13. In that budget review, the board planned to eliminate a special education teaching position due to a retirement. However, Lawson said that instructor ended up choosing not to retire which is why spending jumped to $14,413,145.
Ring said the district is still unsure what the exact spending plan will be on April 4, even with the tax levy decided. She pointed out the board is still waiting to hear more regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s promise to increase aid to education by $805 million. Originally, Cuomo had intended for one-third of those finances to go towards unrestricted aid with the rest of the money going towards competitive grants and the GAP elimination adjustment (aid the state takes away from school districts to fulfill other needs). However, Ring mentioned the governor is considering taking the money set aside for grants and allowing schools to use it as general state aid. The superintendent explained spending in Dundee would be cut further if the governor follows through on this consideration.
If the budget is adopted, DCS will hold a public hearing about the spending plan on May 1. A final vote would occur on May 15, the same date school board elections will take place.