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Spafford equalization rates may rise again, affect school taxes

— Preliminary estimates from the state Office of Real Property Services estimate that the equalization rate for the town of Spafford will likely increase six or seven percentage points this year, which could result in higher school tax rates for the other towns in the Skaneateles school district.

“This same problem we dealt with last year is out there again,” Dale Bates, Skaneateles assistant superintendent for budget and finance, told the school board at its March 6 meeting during his presentation on the status of the district’s 2012-13 budget.

The current budget based on estimated revenues for the 2012-13 year is $29.2 million, which is an allowable budget increase of nearly $200,000, Bates said.

However, the loss of county, state and federal money to the district makes the numbers more like a $608,000 projected budget increase, which means the district would need to trim $414,781 from the budget, Bates said.

In explaining the new Property Tax Cap imposed by the state, Bates told the board the maximum allowable levy under the new regulations that could be sent to voters and approved by a simple majority vote was $21, 893,510 or a 3.43 percent increase.

This would be 1.43 percent or about $1.2 million above the 2 percent mandated by the state.

“This is a little better than we anticipated earlier, but the board will need to decide if they will use the maximum allowable tax levy of 3.43% or a smaller number,” Bates said.

Bates also told the school board that “real preliminary” numbers from the state’s Office of Real Property Services suggests that the equalization rate for the Town of Spafford could increase to 115 percent this year. Since the other town in the Skaneateles district — Skaneateles, Marcellus, Sennett, Niles and Owasco — are projected to stay at or below 100 percent equalization, Spafford’s increase would mean the other towns will have a higher school tax rate in order to recompense for Spafford’s lowered tax rate.

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