Lyndonville schools expect no tax increase in next budget

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Tom Klotzbach, a former Lyndonville Board of Education member, addresses the board on Monday, voicing his displeasure over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision not to release preliminary aid runs for school districts. Klotzbach represents Lyndonville on the Orleans-Niagara BOCES board of directors.

LYNDONVILLE – Even with the uncertainty over state aid in 2015-16, Lyndonville Central School leaders expect to present a budget to the public in May that doesn’t raise school taxes.

The district will see about a $90,000 drop in employee benefits, mainly through a reduction in retirement contributions, said John Wolski, the district’s business administrator.

He presented the early work of a budget proposal for 2015-16. The overall budget would be up about $25,000 from the $13,188,750 budget in 2014-15. The tax levy would be unchanged at $4,666,578.

Lyndonville didn’t raise taxes with the 2014-15 budget, either. If state aid comes in at about a 1 percent increase, Wolski said the district won’t have to raise taxes. Lyndonville can utilize some reserve and fund balance to prevent raising taxes.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t give the preliminary school aid projections with his budget proposal in January. The governor is pressuring the State Legislature to adopt a number of school reforms. If the Legislature approves the reforms, Cuomo said he would support a 4.8 percent school aid increase. If the Legislature blocks the reforms, Cuomo said education aid would only increase 1.7 percent.

“It’s a new wrinkle he’s never done before and we’ll have to work through it in the coming months,” Wolski said at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

Tom Klotzbach, a former Lyndonville BOE member, was more critical of Cuomo’s decision to make districts guess about their aid.

“I think it’s unconscionable that governor is withholding preliminary state aid runs,” Klotzbach said at the board meeting. “I’m very disappointed in the governor doing that.”

The district is considering not doing about $100,000 in buildings and grounds improvements. Some of those savings could be used to maintain a college readiness program known as AVID. A grant for that program expires after this school year and Lyndonville wants to continue the program.

Some of the building and facilities money could also be used for a building conditions survey that would take stock of school buildings and infrastructure, including sewer pipes, Wolski said.

There is a chance the state could give the district more than 1 percent in aid. If that happens, Lyndonville wouldn’t need to use as much fund balance. It could also consider a building project or perhaps reduce taxes, Wolski said.

“Let’s see how the revenue plays out,” Wolski said about the state aid.

The district by March 1 needs to submit a proposal to state for how much it intends to collect in taxes in 2015-16 as part of a tax cap calculation. The state budget is due to be adopted by April 1. Under Cuomo, the state has passed four straight on-time budgets.

Districts should approve their budgets by late April and early May, with the spending plans to be voted on by the public on May 19.