LCSD board approves 3.2 tax increase

— After facing its third straight year of severe budget deficits, the Liverpool Central School District's board of education approved the proposed budget for the 2012-2013 school year on April 2. The proposed $129 million budget will increase school taxes by 3.2 percent, cut 49 jobs within the district and terminate the FOCUS program that caters to at-risk students.

As explained by Johns at an earlier meeting, the tax rate increase and the tax levy increase are two different things; the levy increase must be under two percent according to the tax cap law. Liverpool’s is. The tax rate includes new properties not yet included on the rolls, PILOTs and other properties that have not yet been calculated as part of the tax levy. The procedure is explained on the district’s website.

The budget proposal passed by a vote of seven to one, with the sole vote against coming from board member Donald Cook.

“I take very seriously the fact that we have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and the community and the students to manage their money properly,” Cook said. “We're not doing that, in my opinion.”

Cook went on to explain that the school district has depleted its financial reserves by 65 percent over the past three years to meet budget shortfalls. These measures are the result of “unfunded mandates,” whereby additions to the budget are not offset by cuts or increases in taxes or government funding. Moreover, this practice could potentially harm the schools bond rating, according the Cook.

“It's an addiction that we cannot sustain,” he said.

The seven remaining members of the board voting in favor of the proposed budget acted so in order to preserve most of the school district's existing programs.

“The resources are our teachers and our employees and our programs,” said board member Stacey Balduf. “You're going to have to take every one of those resources out of my hand fighting.”

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