Feb 12, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
The Skaneateles School District will not adopt property tax exemptions for veterans this year.
Assistant Superintendent of Business of Finance Dale Bates said he did not feel comfortable making a recommendation on the exemptions, at the school board’s Feb. 11 meeting.
With a March 1 deadline to enroll in the new program, passed by the state legislature in December 2013, the district does not have enough time to gather all the information it needs, hold a public hearing to get input from the community and make an educated decision on the exemptions, Bates said.
“We want the board to have a chance to make an informed decision,” Bates said. “This is too fast to move.”
If the district were to offer the exemptions and every eligible veteran enrolled, the annual property taxes for a house in the district valued at $275,000 would increase by $47. However, the district has the option to adopt lower levels of exemptions which would have a lesser impact on the tax rate.
These options will be explored in the future, he said.
Though the district is not ready to release its preliminary budget for the 2014-15 school year, Interim Superintendent of Schools Judy Pastel said that the district will not have to lay off any full-time staff to balance the budget. Bates said that if the district were to replace all the retiring teachers, it would still see a $300,000 decrease in expenses.
The tax cap for the district this year will be about 1.3 percent, though in their current projections the district needs to raise the levy about 2 percent, which would require a 60 percent supermajority approval, or find ways to reduce expenses, Bates said.
The retiring teachers include: Michael Baier, Richard Cangemi, M.J. May, Susan Pingel, John Quijano, John Smolenski, Dannie Taylor and Linda Torrey.
Bates also said the district plans to have two referendums on the ballot for the budget vote in May. One will be phase two of the district’s capital improvements work. Based on meetings with the board’s facilities committee and the community study group formed to advise the district on capital project proposals, the proposal is tentatively predicted to be $1.9 million. It will include replacing part of the roof over Waterman School, security upgrades for the high school, replacing a boiler for the high school/middle school and replacing the high school intercom system, Bates said.
The second referendum will be for a $232,000 bond to purchase two new buses.
–Since it was the final school board meeting for Dale Bates, several people took a chance to speak about his more than 30 years service to the district.
Long-time school board members Michael Card said over his tenure Bates must have driven more than 600,000 miles coming to and from the district office. He commended Bates for his dedication to the district which won him administrator of the year from the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES as well as the district being awarded “Best Managed School District” in the state under his guidance.
“Well known around New York State, and certainly around Central New York, his expertise was often sought. Without a doubt one of the top business managers in New York State,” Card said.
“You can replace the person, but you’re not going to be able to fill his shoes.”
Middle School Principal Gary Gerst called Bates a personal mentor, a friend and a person who always led by example.
“You’ve been an incredible person to this district and you’ve made a huge difference to kids and that’s your number one goal, everybody who knows you knows that,” Gerst said.
–After having attended the Feb. 4 school board association forum, Resident Julie Abbott-Kenan spoke to encourage the board to take an official stance against the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment policy. The policy takes millions of dollars in aid away from public districts, which has led for education advocates, school officials and residents across the state to call for its repeal by the state legislature. The Skaneateles district has had almost $4 million taken out of its aid over the last four budget periods.
“Now is our time to make a difference,” Abbott-Kenan said.
Pastel added that decreased state aid is one of the main reasons the district has been in a tough financial position in recent years.
“They [the state] have been balancing their budget on the backs of our children, is the way I think of it,” she said.
–Board President Kathryn Carlson announced that the board will be interviewing consultants for its superintendent of schools search in March. Once a consultant is hired the board will work to develop a timeline for interviewing and hiring the district’s next superintendent.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.