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What you need to know for 08/21/2017

Scotia-Glenville school budget with tax hike of 4.46 percent goes to voters

Scotia-Glenville school budget with tax hike of 4.46 percent goes to voters

Taxes would rise about $150 for the average homeowner if a $49.1 million budget adopted Wednesday by

Taxes would rise about $150 for the average homeowner if a $49.1 million budget adopted Wednesday by the Scotia-Glenville Board of Education is approved by voters.

The budget increases spending by $1.3 million from the current year and raises the tax levy by 4.46 percent, which is under the district’s 4.5 percent tax levy limit.

A homeowner with an average assessment of $160,000 would see their tax bill increase to about $3,518 — before counting any savings from the STAR exemption program.

The board at one point considered passing a budget with a 6.5 percent tax levy increase after it expressed hesitation about any more cuts. However, it received $570,000 in additional state aid it used to reduce the levy.

Nine full-time equivalent positions would be eliminated under this budget. The reductions include not replacing a retiring elementary teacher, cutting one literacy coach and eliminating various other positions district-wide.

Other reductions would cut another $15,000 from athletics, reduce custodian substitutes, buildings and grounds summer help, summer curriculum planning days, a guidance counselor, gifted and talented teacher, business, technology and family and consumer science positions and late buses.

The district is also offering a retirement incentive for teachers and retiring secretary staff with an eye to restoring some of the roughly $750,000 in funds that were cut. The incentive would give $10,000 to teachers, which includes other staff that require a state certificate except teachers assistants, and $1,500 for secretaries, in addition to payments for unused sick days and maintain health benefits. The deadline is May 10.

Teachers have to be at least 55 and have 10 consecutive years of employment at Scotia-Glenville to be eligible, according to Scotia-Glenville Superintendent Susan Swartz.

About 40 teachers and maybe five secretaries would be eligible under this incentive, according to Swartz. She doesn’t think they would all take the incentive and the number of teachers is capped at the first 15 to apply.

The difference between the cost of a new and experienced employee could be around $50,000, according to Swartz.

She said the exact savings to the district is difficult to determine. Many of the people who take the incentive would have to be replaced, possibly with people making a lower salary. Swartz said most of the district’s staff is at the middle or the top of the salary schedule as the less experienced faculty members have been laid off during the last few years because of budget cuts.

“That also means some of our most talented peopled would leave us. You pass up that experience to generate some savings,” she said.

Another factor is the district first must examine the list of people that have been laid off in the past few years to see if they could be hired back for an opening. There is the chance the person the district would hire back could be making more than the person who just took the retirement incentive.

The total savings in the secretary salaries and benefits could be around $75,000, according to Swartz.

District spokesman Robert Hanlon said the money for the incentive program is being tapped from this year’s budget.

Among the first items that would be restored if there is additional savings would be an academic enrichment teacher, guidance counselor and late buses, according to Swartz. If even more money were available, the district would restore summer school, a literacy coach and positions in the technology, business, family and consumer science, art, music and physical education departments.

Swartz had suggested that all the unions consider a hard pay freeze — meaning not receiving either a cost-of-living or step increase — which would save about $786,000. No unions have taken her up on that request.

At the meeting, board member Gary Normington said he had conducted a nonscientific poll of 100 people while shopping on Mohawk Avenue. Of those polled, 72 percent said that they would support a budget that complies with the tax levy cap, although 27 of those said they wanted staff concessions to win their support. Eighteen percent supported exceeding the cap, and 11 of those supporters again wanting staff concessions. Ten percent planned to vote against the budget regardless of the proposed tax levy increase.

Swartz said she believes the district has done a good job during the past three years in trying to become more efficient and hold onto as many programs as it could. However, she said the pace of budget cuts isn’t sustainable.

“At what point does the program a school district is able to offer their students become a program that is simply not adequate?” she said.

Also on May 21, voters will cast ballots for a proposal to purchase two, 65-passenger school buses, three 29-passenger school buses and one wheelchair-accessible bus.

A public hearing on the budget will be held on May 8, at 7 p.m. in the middle school cafeteria.

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