School Board Discusses Tax Cap
It's become an annual rite of spring. Budget cuts are looming in the Huntington School District as officials work to develop a draft spending plan to fund operations during the 2012/13 school year.
Superintendent James W. Polansky and Assistant Superintendent David H. Grackin discussed the impact the state's new property tax cap law will have on the district during the last meeting of the Huntington School Board. Tentative figures indicate the district's tax levy increase will be capped at 2.21 percent under the new state legislation.
Mr. Polansky utilized a PowerPoint presentation to provide an overview of the tax cap legislation and the eight step calculation that must be followed to determine the maximum allowable tax levy increase.
The district's budget for the current school year amounts to $109,037,301. If the district offered a duplicate program in 2012/13, spending would need to be increased by $3,737,699 or 3.43 percent to $112,775,000. However, school officials say the tax cap law will limit the spending increase to $2,804,164 or 2.6 percent for a total budget of $111,877,465.
The difference between the two figures amounts to $897,535 and represents the amount trustees will need to cut from the 2012/13 budget during deliberations over the next two months. Residents will vote on next year's budget on May 15 in the Huntington High School lobby from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"Our challenge as a district is to continue improving student performance while working with increasingly fewer financial resources," Mr. Polansky said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has released a proposed state budget that, if enacted, would send an additional $900,000 in state aid to the Huntington School District. Without that aid school officials would be starring at $1.8 million in budget cuts.
Huntington has cut millions of dollars in school spending in recent years, including the elimination of more than 90 full time jobs in the current budget. Messrs. Polansky and Grackin explained to trustees that the district currently holds about $16 million in various reserve accounts, including $5.3 million in the capital reserve fund that can only be used for reconstruction and repair projects that gain voter approval.
The two administrators cautioned against the temptation to rate the reserve funds, which could quickly be wiped out to the detriment of the district's financial rating and ultimately taxpayers.
A draft budget is expected to be sent to Huntington School Board members by the end of the month and released to the budget shortly thereafter. Trustees will hold a series of public budget meetings beginning on Monday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jack Abrams School auditorium.
Mr. Polansky stressed that although budget cuts were under consideration, no decisions have been made about where the reductions will occur. Central office administrators have been meeting with principals and other budget managers as they develop the 2012/13 spending plan.
School districts across the state are still learning the intricacies of the new tax cap law. "I think one of the more important points is that it is not a 'two percent' tax cap," Mr. Polansky said. "The exclusions will affect different districts in different ways."
Huntington earlier pegged its maximum allowable tax rate increase slightly higher. The difference lies primarily in insurance premium estimate reductions, additional state aid and tight fiscal management. The district froze most new purchase orders last October.