Jan 24, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
The Skaneateles School Board will make a decision next month that could potentially affect property taxes for people throughout the district.
The board discussed the possibility of enrolling in a new voluntary state program allowing local veterans to sign up for real property tax exemptions, at its Jan. 21 meeting.
The bill creating the program, titled “Provides authorization to grant certain exemptions from real property tax for school districts to certain veterans,” was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December. The law allows the district to set an exemption rate under the allowed maximum.
The district already offers similar property tax exemptions to senior citizens and veterans who are also senior citizens would be able to take advantage of both exemptions. The new exemptions wouldn’t affect the tax levy or the budget, though they would increase the tax rate for most residents, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Business Dale Bates said.
Though he didn’t have the totals for school district residents who live in Cayuga County, Bates said the Onondaga County portions of the district include 406 people who would qualify for veteran’s exemptions.
If the district decided to offer to the exemptions and all the Onondaga County veterans signed up, the total assessment for the district would decrease by about $16 million and the tax rate would increase adding about $57 to the annual tax bill of a house valued at $275,000, Bates said.
The district will need to decide whether or not to participate in the program by the end of February, meaning the board will need to make a decision at the Feb. 11 meeting.
–Bates also addressed a recent report released by the office of the state comptroller that listed the Skaneateles School District as under “moderate fiscal stress.”
Bates said a primary reason for the label was due to the district’s decision in recent years to use its fund balance to balance the budget, rather than cutting programs. Due to consolidation of administrative staff and other changes, the district is projected to increase its fund balance from $346,000 up to $821,000 at the end of the current school year, he said.
Board members Evan Dreyfuss said that the board should be happy that it chose not to cut programs while adhering to a state-mandated tax cap and dealing with increasing fringe benefit costs.
“It shows that we were deliberate and we wanted to save our school system rather than just fire everybody and look good on a report,” Dreyfuss said.
–The board heard a presentation from several teachers and administrators about full-day kindergarten, which was implemented this year for the first time.
The program is going well thus far, and despite noticing that some of the students appear tired in the later part of the day, there has not been noticeable absenteeism or behavioral problems, the teachers said.
Waterman School Principal Gary Gerst commended the teachers for being able to transition to full-day kindergarten while also implementing curriculum changes due to the common core learning standards.
“They have done a phenomenal job,” Gerst said.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.