Shenendehowa: Aid cut reason for tax increase

The spending increase in Shenendehowa Central School District’s 2010-11 budget of $147.7 million is

The spending increase in Shenendehowa Central School District’s 2010-11 budget of $147.7 million is under 1 percent but the tax levy will increase an estimated 3.1 percent, district officials say.

Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson has stressed during Board of Education budget meetings that the spending increase in this year’s 2009-10 district budget of 0.9 percent and the proposed 2010-11 budget of 0.2 percent is just slightly more than a 1 percent increase over two years.

The problem is that state aid for Shenendehowa, the largest school district in Saratoga County with nearly 10,000 students, has been reduced by $4.9 million in the 2010-11 budget because of the state’s fiscal crisis.

This, and a major increase in the district’s payments into the state retirement systems, prompted the district to increase the tax levy to $100.6 million from this year’s $97.5 million.

District officials are projecting an average 2.6 percent tax rate increase for homeowners. The estimated total school 2010-11 tax bill for the parts of six towns in the district is $1,656. Final tax rates won’t be set until August when all assessment and equalization rate information is completed.

For the current 2009-10 school year, the tax rate for Clifton Park residents decreased from $28.14 per $1,000 in 2008-09 to $27.80 per $1,000. The year before that the portions of the district in Halfmoon, Ballston, Waterford and Malta all saw their tax rates decrease, according to the district budget statement.

“This year the challenges to minimize the impact on taxpayers did not come from increases in spending,” Robinson said.

Robinson said this year’s challenge came from a $4.9 million reduction in state aid in Gov. David Paterson’s proposed state budget.

District officials are not yet projecting individual tax rates associated with the new budget.

If residents vote against the new budget, the district would operate on a contingency budget in 2010-11, which is only $282,000 less than the budget adopted by the Board of Education on April 13. However, a contingency budget limits the ways the district can spend the money.

Robinson said the school board reduced early versions of the 2010-11 budget by $4 million during workshop meetings this winter and spring.

“We can’t control revenues but we can control spending,” Robinson said.

The cost-cutting reductions are across the board, impacting every major unit of expense from athletics to operations, according to a district statement.

A total of 46 positions across all areas are either being eliminated or not being filled, including four administrators, 26.5 teachers, and 16 support staff positions. Most of these cuts will be done through retirements or resignations. School officials said up to a dozen people could face actual layoffs.

“We don’t want to contribute to the unemployment rolls,” Robinson said.

District residents will also vote May 18 on a $1.1 million bus replacement proposition for the purchase of 15 buses of various sizes.

How to vote

WHERE: Gowana Middle School gymnasium, Route 146, Clifton Park.

WHO: Anyone with personal identification showing he or she is a district resident, is at least 18 years old, and has lived in the district for at least 30 days. No preregistration required.

Categories: Schenectady County

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