LOWVILLE The proposed Lowville Academy and Central School District budget for 2012-13 would maintain a stable tax levy for the seventh straight year.
We are in very solid financial position, said Superintendent Kenneth J. McAuliffe, who plans to retire at the end of August.
Spending in the proposed budget, adopted recently by the Board of Education, would increase by $498,046, from $25,325,410 to $25,823,456; that is a roughly 2 percent increase.
The tax levy, or amount to be raised by property taxes, is to remain at $3,851,071. Tax rates wont be determined until final town tax rolls are completed in August, but district officials are projecting a drop in the full-value tax rate from $8.23 to $7.98 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The proposed spending plan would use $1.35 million down from $3 million this year from the districts fund balance to keep taxes down.
However, budgeted income from payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deals is set at $3.58 million, up from $1.84 million in the 2011-12 budget.
District officials historically have budgeted the so-called fallback amount for its PILOT from Maple Ridge Wind Farm in case the wind farm would lose eligibility for state Empire Zone benefits, which boost the annual mid-December payments. Any unbudgeted revenues then roll into the fund balance at the end of the school year.
However, Mr. McAuliffe said, the full PILOT payment must be run through the states new tax cap formula, so it made sense to budget the entire amount as a revenue and cut fund balance use accordingly.
While the district has received about $4 million annually from the 15-year wind farm PILOT through its first five years, that is to drop to about $3.5 million from this year on because of the way the agreement was structured, he said.
Board of Education members were well aware of that front-loading, however, and factored that into their long-term fiscal planning, Mr. McAuliffe said.
Overall state aid is to increase from $16.67 million to $17.07 million.
Salaries are projected to rise by $357,871 to $11.72 million.
The district also anticipates that the cost of health insurance will increase by $141,154 to $2.73 million, while state retirement costs are to jump by $143,205 to $1.48 million.
However, energy and diesel fuel costs are expected to drop by $111,500 to $763,600. That is mainly attributable to dropping natural gas prices, Mr. McAuliffe said.
The district plans to reduce one daily bus run through attrition, but other staff and programs essentially will remain intact, the superintendent said.
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 7 p.m. May 7 in the elementary schools cafeteria. The annual budget vote and Board of Education election will take place from noon to 8 p.m. May 15 in the school auditorium.
District voters also will be asked to approve the purchase of three buses for up to $375,000, authorize transportation of students to Lowville Head Start on regularly scheduled bus routes, increase funding for the Lowville Free Library from $50,000 to $60,000 and permit establishment of a capital reserve fund of up to $1.5 million over the next 10 years.
The district recently completed a large capital project using a previously established $3 million reserve, funding through wind farm money, to cover the local share up front, meaning no future debt service costs.
The proposed reserve, if approved by voters, could be used to cover the local share of a future mechanical maintenance project to replace roofs, remortar the high school building constructed in 1924 and handle other upkeep items, Mr. McAuliffe said. No such project is being planned, he said.
The district also continues to seek state legislation that would allow it to set money aside in a tax stabilization reserve fund, providing a cushion if the wind farm ever shuts down or significantly reduces its payments, Mr. McAuliffe said.