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Taconic Hills proposes $37M budget, keeping lid on levy


CRARYVILLE–The Taconic Hills School District Board of Education has unanimously adopted a $37,450,541 budget proposal for the 2017-18 school year. Board members Harvey Weber and William Arp did not attend the April 19 meeting.

The proposal will go before district voters May 16.

Spending in the proposed budget would be $301,945 higher than for the current school year, which represents an increase of 0.81%.

The board also approved a 1.4% tax levy rate increase to help finance the proposed budget. That measure was adopted by a 6-1 vote. The new tax levy rate would raise an additional $321,014 in the coming school year for a total levy of $23,250,614.

Before the vote on the levy board member Ronald Morales advocated for the board to “maximize” the tax levy rate to reach the state mandated cap of a 1.83% increase; that would raise the tax levy by $418,937, a little less than $100,000 more than the adopted rate.

Mr. Morales argued that the board should take a long view and consider how lower tax levies impact “communities in the future.” The tax cap is based in part on the levy from the previous year, so a lower levy now may lead to a lower cap next year. He noted that “future expenses are going up” adding that the district likely would receive “lower state aid” in the future in light of declining enrollment at Taconic Hills.

Business Manager Cybil Howard said state and foundation funding accounts for $11 million of the district’s budget.

Board member Kevin Maisenbacher advocated for a lower tax levy rate of 1.3%, which would raise the levy by $297,730 compared to the current years. Mr. Maisenbacher argued that the district’s fund balance has been “stable [the] past seven years” and the district did not “need more” tax money. He concluded that it was a “disservice” to the community to ask for more money.

Even with state and foundation funding plus property tax revenue, Ms. Howard said that the district would still need $1,373,987 to “balance” next year’s school budget.

Voters have the final say on whether to approve the proposed budget and tax levy rate increase.

At the meeting the board also approved a proposal to spend $230,000 for the purchase of two school buses and a passenger vehicle for the 2017-18 school year. The money will come from the Capital Reserve Fund, which currently has a balance of $2,634,450; but voters must approve the purchase.

In addition the board approved a resolution to add $2 million to the Capital Reserve Fund with the caveat that the fund shall not exceed $5million. Voters approved establishing the Capital Reserve Fund at three million dollars in May 2015.

In the public forum section of the meeting Titans football coach Scott Pratt sought the board’s permission to proceed with arrangements for camps and scrimmages despite the program’s dubious status. Coach Pratt said that the district is again looking for a head football coach–the fourth in the past four years. He said that the school is at risk of losing its junior varsity football program due to the low number of participants, a decline that started in 2016. The last time the Titans were in the playoffs was 2011.

The next school board meeting is May 17 at 6:30 p.m.

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