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Albion wants to reduce school taxes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 March 2015 at 12:00 am

District already has lowest tax rate in county

ALBION – The school district with the lowest tax rate in Orleans County may be able to reduce the rate even more in 2015-16.

Albion Central School will see about $200,000 in retirement savings next school year plus about $100,000 less in debt service. Those savings have district leaders optimistic the tax levy can be cut by 1 percent or about $84,000 from the $8,439,939.

The Board of Education and school administrators also intend to keep all existing programs offered by the district, superintendent Michael Bonnewell said at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

The district is working to fine-tune a proposed budget for 2015-16. State aid is a big wild card. The governor’s budget released in January did not include aid projections for Albion or other school districts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said districts can expect 1.7 percent more state-wide on the low end, and that’s if the governor’s reforms in education, including changes in teacher evaluations, are not approved by the State Legislature. If the reforms are passed, Cuomo said he would support 4.8 percent more in aid for districts state-wide.

Albion is budgeting for a 0 percent change in state aid at this point in the process. With the goal of preserving existing programs and still cutting taxes by 1 percent, Albion faces a $235,000 budget gap.

That’s if the district doesn’t see an increase in state aid. School officials expect there will be more state aid for Albion, but the number is uncertain given the differences between the governor and State Legislature.

The $235,000 gap isn’t too big of a hurdle at this stage of the budget process, said Shawn Liddle, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

“That is a very workable number as a first draft,” Liddle said.

The draft of the budget for 2015-16 calls for $33,252,000 in spending, which is down more than $300,000 from the $33,551,051 budget for 2014-15.

School administrators are continuing to look at enrollment and student schedules for next year to see if any efficiencies in staffing that can be achieved.

Albion taxpayers paid a $16.78 tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property in 2014-15. That compares with the following rates in Orleans County: Holley, $22.43; Kendall, $17.44; Lyndonville, $18.34; and Medina, $23.31.