Tim Keegan didn’t know he was giving up a $50 tax rebate when he voted to support the Scotia-Glenville Central School District’s $50.78 million budget Tuesday.
After voting at Scotia-Glenville High School, the 61-year-old Scotia resident said that information would not have stopped him from voting yes.
“I wasn’t aware of that, but I would vote in favor anyway,” said Keegan, whose son is graduating from the high school this year and whose daughter graduated four years ago. “I think enough has been cut. It’s about the kids at this point.”
Voters approved the budget by a vote of 1,254 to 575, or 73.2 percent. The budget needed a 60 percent supermajority needed for approval because, with a 1.76 percent tax levy increase, it exceeded the 0.27 percent tax cap allowed by the state.
Because voters approved the override, district homeowners are not eligible for a new tax rebate included in the state budget amounting to an estimated $51.32. The rebate varies based on the tax increase and assessed home value.
In seeking the community’s support at Scotia-Glenville, district officials said there have been deep program cuts and 75 layoffs over the past four years. Raising taxes 1.76 percent, an estimated $62.40 for a home assessed at $160,000, allows for a “no-cut” budget that keeps programs at current levels, officials said.
“After four years of cutting staff and programs, it was a risk for the Board of Education to step up this year and say enough is enough and agree to exceed the state’s tax levy cap,” Susan Swartz, superintendent of schools, said in a statement. “We are pleased that our parents, grandparents and community supported our schools by supporting our budget at such a high level.”
Statewide, 23 school districts attempted to override the cap, and 14 succeeded. That’s double last year’s first round of budget votes, when seven out of 28 districts that tried for an override succeeded.
“I don’t think a lot of people had in the back of their heads whether the vote was going to generate a tax rebate or not,” said Michael Borges, New York State School Business Officials executive director. “I think they were voting based on the merits of the individual budgets.”
Northville Central School District voters did not give the $10.56 million budget the supermajority it needed for a tax cap override. The 225-179 tally was five votes shy of 60 percent.
“We realize what the cap is, and that’s really not conducive to adding back programs, but the community was telling the board members that we want more, so that’s what they were trying to do,” said Bruce Ellsworth, the district’s business manager.
The budget would have raised taxes 3.88 percent— the district’s tax levy limit is 1.12 percent. The difference, which amounts to $217,000, would have allowed the district to add a part-time seventh-grade Spanish teacher, a teaching assistant and a part-time custodian to assist what has been reduced to a “bare bones” custodial staff, he said.
The board will have a special meeting Thursday, May 29, to consider its options. It can put the same budget up for a new vote, propose a revised budget or go straight to a contingency budget.