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The Times
  • Proposed Little Falls school budget increases taxes by 3.85%

  • The Little Falls City School District adopted a budget for the 2013 - 2014 school year that would increase the property tax levy by 3.85 percent.

    If approved by voters on May 21, the spending plan would also increase appropriations by $430,740, a two percent increase over the approved 2012 - 2013 budget.

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  • The Little Falls City School District adopted a budget for the 2013 - 2014 school year that would increase the property tax levy by 3.85 percent.
    If approved by voters on May 21, the spending plan would also increase appropriations by $430,740, a two percent increase over the approved 2012 - 2013 budget.
    District Business Manager Clete McLaughlin said the primary reasons for the proposed increase in appropriations are an estimated $292,000 increase in mandatory pension contributions and an anticipated $250,000 increase in health insurance costs.
    These, he said, are being driven by an expected eight percent increase in health insurance premiums, a 22.2 percent increase in New York State Employee Retirement System contributions and a 33 percent increase in state Teacher Retirement System payments.
    “When taken together these two factors exceed the total budget increase, meaning the remaining combined appropriations are actually less than the 2012 - 2013 budget,” McLaughlin said during last week’s public hearing on the $21,555,664 budget.
    Superintendent of Schools Louis Patrei said the district estimates revenues other than taxes to be $13,048,487, inclusive of a $456,758 increase in general state aid. In addition to this, he said $250,000 would be applied from reserves - down from $500,000 previously - with the balance of $8,259,177 being raised through property taxes.
    The proposed tax levy is $306,119 higher than 2012 - 2013, representing an increase of 3.85 percent. “It is important to note that this increase remains below the New York State tax levy limit, which would have allowed for a 4.14 percent increase,” said Patrei.
    He added while meeting the demands associated with significantly higher pension and health insurance expenses, the budget would return a high school English position that been eliminated two years ago, provide funding for the addition of a second full-time school resource officer and reduce the district’s dependence on reserves as part of a long-term strategy to improve the overall financial health of the school system.
    “This budget would also maintain all athletic, arts and extracurricular programs, continue to include the 12 Advanced Placement and college level course opportunities available for our students and continue to maintain desirable class sizes,” said Patrei.
    McLaughlin said not withstanding the impact of fluctuations in assessment and equalization, the average residential taxpayer, with a home market value of $75,000 and qualifying for the basic STAR exemption, would expect to pay approximately $45.45 more in their 2013 school tax bill, if the budget is approved by voters as is.
    A senior citizen, living in a similar home and qualifying for the enhanced STAR exemption, would see a $15.15 increase in their tax bill, he said.
    Patrei said since the proposed tax levy increase is below the district’s tax levy limit, a simple majority of people casting ballots need to vote “yes” for the budget to pass.
    “The 2013- 2014 proposed budget, as presented, was arrived at after many hours of hard work and active discussion by the board of education and administration. It is a budget that remains below the New York State tax levy limit, but continues to provide quality educational services for the students of the Little Falls City School District,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Along with voting on the budget and electing three commissioners to the board of education, each to a three-year term, voters will be asked to decide two propositions.
    The first asks residents to approve the purchase of a 65-passenger school bus at a sum not to exceed $135,000 and the second asks residents to increase the tax levy for the Little Falls Public Library from the current amount of $80,500 to $82,110.
    If the bus purchase is approved, Patrei said the district would replace a 2006 bus that has in excess of 118,000 miles. The new bus, he said, would include a wheelchair lift. The purchase would be eligible for 80 percent state transportation aid, he said.
    A simple majority is required for passage of each proposition.

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