Prior to the start of the work session, the Board held two public hearings to discuss the Veterans Tax Exemption and Gold Star Parent Exemption. A recent amendment to the NYS Real Property tax law now permits boards of education to extend various tax exemptions to certain property owners based on military service. Dr. Paul Lynch, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance, operations and information systems, explained that there are three types of veterans who were acknowledged in the legislation: wartime veterans in a non-combat zone, wartime combat zone veterans and wartime combat zone veterans who are disabled, with each type eligible for different levels of default exemptions. He computed that based on the default exemption rates for the 412 veterans who would qualify, the total cost of exemptions would be $172,539. This amount would have to be distributed among the non-veteran homeowners in the district. The board agreed to refrain from granting the exemption this year due to several reasons. Because of the tight fiscal restraints imposed by the tax levy cap and due to the fact that there was also no income or means test attached to this exemption, the board agreed that approving it could put an undue burden on others who may not have the ability to pay higher taxes. In addition, the board does not grant exemptions to volunteer firefighters and other groups who might be eligible. The board also voted to refrain from granting the Gold Star exemption to parents of soldiers killed in combat.
At the conclusion of the public hearings, Dr. Lynch presented a summary of expenditures for the proposed 2014-15 budget, which total $77,229,010, representing an increase of 1.36 percent.
On the revenue side, state aid revenue is expected to total $7,376,085. Dr. Lynch estimated the district’s local revenues at $1,994,294. Based on these figures, the estimated tax levy would be $66,358,631, representing an increase of 1.46 percent, which meets the district’s maximum allowable tax levy.
Dr. Lynch explained that the Gap Elimination Adjustment cost the district $1,202,392 in proposed state aid, and urged residents to write to their state legislators to eliminate the GEA. The GEA was first introduced under the leadership of Gov. Patterson, reducing state aid for public schools to close the state’s budget gap.
Dr. Lynch explained the two additional propositions that the board will consider putting on the ballot along with Proposition 1, the proposed budget. Proposition 2 deals with use of $300,000 in the technology replacement fund to replace old classroom projectors and computers, and to continue implementing infrastructure for off-site disaster recovery.
Proposition 3 deals with the use of $1,250,000 in the capital reserve and renovation and improvement of facilities fund to replace the boiler at the high school and install air conditioning in the general purpose room at South Middle School.
Dr. Lynch went on to explain that the bid for North Middle project, approved by voters in May 2012, was officially opened on Feb. 6. Due in part to the long delay in receiving SED approval for the plans, the bids came in over budget. He recommended two options to the board — scaling back the scope of the project (which would mean going back to the drawing board for SED approval) or taking more money from capital reserves. The board agreed to ask voters to approve the expenditure of the additional funds from the capital reserve fund as part of Proposition 3.
The Board is scheduled to adopt the proposed budget and the two additional propositions at the March 12 meeting.