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11th hour change: school tax rates to increase this year

Skaneateles CSD forced into corner by state tax equalization rate

— Due to a recent change in the Spafford town equalization rates, residents in the town of Skaneateles — as well as district residents in Marcellus and Sennett — will pay a nearly 4 percent increase in their tax rates beginning in September.

This is a significant raise over the previously projected tax rate increase for the 2011-12 school year.

At the Aug. 23 meeting, the Skaneateles School Board voted to reduce the increase by taking money out of the reserve fund and moving it into the revenue fund, but this action hurts the previously planned budget stabilization process and will likely lead to lower levels of reserves, which could be used to offset future revenue shortfalls.

The Skaneateles school superintendent, assistant superintendent/business manager, board president, and board members all were upset by the unexpected turn of events, and were adamant in their desire to assure district residents that the tax rate increase is not a tax levy increase; it is not because the district is spending extra money, but is rather a redistribution of the amount certain district residents are paying.

“The shame of this is that we have made so many strides this year [to tame the budget] and then to get this curveball,” said superintendent Phil D’Angelo. “Whatever we do we’re compromising down the road. This is putting us in a very difficult position — we either pay now or we pay later.”

At issue is the 2011 tax warrant for the towns comprising the Skaneateles school district.

“This has been a headache for the past week,” district assistant superintendent and business manager Dale Bates told the board.

The budgeted tax rate increase for the district was 2.8 percent for the 2011-12 school year.

The town of Niles lost one-tenth of one percent of its warrant, which shifts a slight tax burden to the other towns in the district. But the “big surprise,” Bates said, was that the town of Spafford received an equalization rate that was set at 109 percent.

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