School districts take on tax cap

District expenses such as facilities' maintenance and union contracts are also increased by state mandates. For examples, the Tribourough Agreement requires expired union contracts to remain whether or not a new agreement has been negotiated, and the Wicks Law forces districts to have multiple construction contracts.

The mandate issue has not gone unrecognized at the state level. In fact, Gov. Cuomo recently formed a Mandate Relief Redesign Team charged with reviewing existing unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed by New York state.

"The enormous burden of unfunded and underfunded mandates is breaking the backs of taxpayers, counties and municipalities across the state," Gov. Cuomo said.

New York Senator David Valesky agrees mandate relief is needed.

"[The tax cap] has to be accompanied by real mandate relief because many of our local governments and school districts simply cannot continue operating under the status quo," he said during a Jan. 11 state of the area forum in Cazenovia. "The revenue is just simply not going to be there for the State of New York, and we have to do things differently at all levels of government."

The cap will improve the quality of life for residents, but in the long-term may lead to inferior educational programs unless mandates and other state level issues are addressed and rectified.

"We continue to aim towards reducing services and programs, but not eliminating them, if possible," Kaiser said. "We have been reducing positions over the past few years as student enrollment decreases [and] recently, we reduced a position in the business office ... Once we know the full impact of the state budget, we will look for further reductions. It is our hope that we can continue to minimize reductions that directly impact the classroom, but there is no doubt that more staff reductions will occur."

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