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Board of Education asks community to support budget

GUEST COLUMN

On May 7 the Skaneateles Board of Education held its 2013-14 public budget information session. Thank you to those who attended and participated. For those who could not attend, the following is a summary of the contents of that session.

The last four years have been difficult ones for all school systems in New York State. After the financial crisis of 2008, state aid was basically frozen and in some cases reduced. Here in Skaneateles, we received a twenty percent cut to our basic aid, for a loss of approximately $1 million. In addition, our district lost revenue from the reduction of the Onondaga County sales tax contribution and declining Federal aid.

Despite these setbacks, we were able to maintain a high level of educational programming, including our strong commitment to the arts and athletics. The district reduced expenses to offset the lost revenue and used reserve funds to keep the tax levy down. During this tumultuous period, the tax levy increases have been held to 2.49, 1.24, 2.49 and 3.06 percent.

The property tax levy cap adds to the challenges facing school districts. The so-called 2 percent property tax levy cap is not a hard 2 percent limit. There are many factors that can push that number up or down. Pension costs, building aid, legal settlements and payments in lieu of taxes all influence the end result. This year the property tax levy cap for our district was 6.25 percent (a number that no one on our board felt should be used). From 2014-15 to 2017-18 our tax cap will be a hard 2 percent.

Therefore the board of education, after much deliberation and after listening to parent and community input has developed a budget for 2013-14 that has a property tax levy increase of 4.98 percent. The actual budget increase is $918,000 or 3.15 percent. We all recognize that this will not be sustainable but is necessary to prepare our school district for the next four years.

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