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With state aid increases, most schools won’t raise taxes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2014 at 12:00 am

The new state budget gives local school districts sizable increases in state aid, money that districts will use to maintain existing programs and also hold down taxes.

Four of the five school districts don’t expect to raise taxes. Kendall, which is considering a 1.9 percent tax increase, may direct some of the state funding for needed technology and safety improvements, said Nadine Hanlon, president of the Board of Education.

Kendall last year cut school taxes by $1 million, reducing the average tax rate from $21.51 to $17.45 per $1,000 of assessed property.

The board will meet on April 9 and plans to adopt a budget that will go before voters on May 20.

The other four school districts don’t plan to raise taxes and will maintain their existing programs for students.

Here is a chart showing a breakdown of the operating aid:

District 2013-14 2014-15 Increase
Albion $21,119,870 $22,068,308 $948,438 (4.5 %)
Holley $11,627,871

$12,020,397

$392,526 (3.4 %)
Kendall $8,371,851 $8,849,868 $478,017 (5.7 %)
Lyndonville $6,343,885 $6,529,304 $185,419 (2.9 %)
Medina $18,517,756 $19,863,426 $1,345,670 (7.3 %)
Orleans County $65,981,233 $69,331,303 $3,350,070 (5.0 %)
Source: NYS Division of the Budget

 

The governor proposed smaller aid increases for the schools, ranging from 0.1 percent for Lyndonville to 3.3 percent for Medina. The State Legislature pushed for more and got it.

“We were very pleased to see the numbers,” said Michael Bonnewell, Albion Central School superintendent. “It will fill our gap. We’ll certainly have what we need to continue our current programs.”

Bonnewell and school administrators will recommend a budget to the Board of Education on Monday that doesn’t increase property taxes.

Based on the governor’s budget that proposed a 2 percent increase in aid, Albion was looking at a $139,000 gap to maintain current programs and not raise taxes. That $139,000 would have raised taxes by 1.6 percent. The Legislature gave Albion a 4.5 percent increase or about $500,000 more than the governor’s budget.

Some of that increase may go into a reserve fund to be used in the future or to help with any unexpected expenses.

Holley was already planning to cut school taxes by 10.6 percent or $800,000. The governor proposed a $153,466 or 1.3 percent increase for Holley. The final budget boosted Holley’s operating aid by $392,000 or 3.4 percent.

Robert D’Angelo, the district superintendent, said he will soon meet with the Board of Education to discuss how to best use the additional state aid.

The $800,00 tax cut will reduce residents’ tax rate from $25.11 to a projected $22.44 per $1,000 of assessed property.

The governor’s budget gave Lyndonville a tiny increase of $946 in additional operating aid. The final budget gives Lyndonville a $185,419 increase. That is enough to hold taxes steady, said Jason Smith, the district superintendent.

“At this point, the district is considering a 0 percent increase on the tax levy, and the district is not looking to add staff or programs,” he said. “We will continue to invest resources in our instructional program to meet the increased demands of the Common Core and the Regents Reform Agenda.”

Medina will see the biggest increase in state aid, a 7.3 percent jump or an additional $1,345,670. The governor proposed a 3.3 percent increase.

Medina won’t be adding staff or programs and won’t seek a tax increase, said Jeff Evoy, the district superintendent.

“This additional money certainly helps and we are appreciative, but we will still be using appropriated fund balance and reserves to support our expenditures next year,” Evoy said. “Our goal is to maintain existing programs. However, all expenses will be carefully monitored.”

Cuomo proposed an $807 million increase in education aid for schools in 2014-15, a 3.8 percent increase. The state Legislature boosted that number to a $1.1 billion hike.