Weekly Feature

2016-01-27 / Front Page

District projects tax levy to be at cap

Hicks anticipates no cuts for next school year

Hicks Hicks The Clarence Central School District is optimistic that it will be able to maintain all programs and personnel in 2016-17 without exceeding the state-imposed tax cap, based on projections for next year’s budget.

(See editorial on page four) the first of three budget workshops held night at Clarence High School, Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks outlined the district’s plan to propose a 2.99 percent tax levy increase, which is the anticipated cap number. Hard numbers will not be available for funding from Albany until March 1.

Based on the projected tax levy increase, the owner of a $200,000 home in Clarence would see a tax rate increase of $56 per year. An increase in next year’s taxes will receive a rebate from the state because Clarence is staying within the property tax cap and has an already-approved compliant efficiency plan in place to save 1 percent of its tax levies in each of the following three years.

In the budget draft, the district is proposing a $77.7 million spending plan for next year — an increase of slightly more than $2.3 million from this year. The budget will result in no personnel or program reductions. The budget draft projects a tax levy increase of $1.3 million and anticipates other revenue sources such as state aid, Medicaid and interest as helping come up with an additional $912,000 needed to close the gap. The district will also apply a $150,000 fund balance, or surplus, to the budget.

Overall, the district has averaged a 1.7 percent spending increase and a 1.7 percent tax levy increase the past eight years.

During the presentation, Hicks said the gap elimination adjustment — a formula that reduces state aid to schools — has gone down about 30 percent for next year. This year’s GEA for Clarence was $1.8 million compared to $1.2 million for next year.

“The gap elimination adjustment was started seven years ago in order to shrink the deficit that the state experienced as a result of the Great Recession, and we have not yet recovered from that,” Hicks said. “The gap elimination adjustment is an issue for us. It’s money we consider the state owes the district, yet it has not been fully returned.”

More than $20 million in state funding has been taken from Clarence during the GEA’s existence. Temporary Fiscal Stabilization Grants helped fill the void until 2011 when they dried up. Hicks said Gov. Andrew Cuomo has projected the GEA will finally be eliminated in next year’s budget.

Since 2011-12, the district has had to cut more than 100 full-time employees due, in part, to the GEA.

“The tax cap levy alone will not provide us with enough funds to restore personnel or programs that have been lost over the years,” Hicks said. “In order for us to even consider restoring things we’re going to need more funding than what’s in the governor’s budget right now.”

The district administration is also recommending that the board consider adopting a bus purchase proposition. The proposal calls for the replacement of nine vehicles including five 72-passenger buses, three 30-passenger buses and a wheelchair van. The purchase will cost $822,000 and is part of an overall plan to replace vehicles on a routine basis rather than spend money on fixing older ones.

The next regular Board of Education meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8, at Ledgeview Elementary, 5150 Old Goodrich Road. The next budget work session will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22, in the lecture hall at Clarence High School, 9625 Main St.

email: sjagord@beenews.com

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