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St. Regis Falls spending plan calls for 2.9 percent tax levy hike

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ST. REGIS FALLS - The St. Regis Falls Central School district will propose a tax levy of 2.9 percent, instead of the original 3 percent that would have been presented to the public.

“With our 2 percent tax cap, we could have gone out to 5.41 percent [in the tax levy],” said Susan Perkins, shared business manager.

However, the board worked to keep it lower “in light of economic times,” as the proposed budget newsletter states.

The original proposed estimated levy would have been at $2,812,509, a 3 percent tax levy, which was lowered to $2,809,778.

“A budget is a plan, it’s not written in stone,” Ms. Perkins said, adding that financial changes must be finalized before Sept. 1.

The proposed budget for the 2013-2014 year is $7,760,909. Despite this being a decrease from the current year’s budget, which was $7,806,723, the levy has still increased.

“The tax levy increase is because you are using less of your unreserved fund balance, or savings account,” Ms. Perkins told the school board. “Your pushing less in ... considerably.”

Ms. Perkins said the reason that the school is using less from that fund is so the school can survive.

“So we can extend the life of the school district through 2013-2014, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016,” she said.

Ms. Perkins added that if the school’s unrestricted fund balance runs out there is a possibility the school may close.

“We’re still planning for the future ... this is survival,” said board member Donna Bailey.

Board member Tom O’Bryan pointed out that the main problem the board was having was that fixed expenses, such as the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) contribution, continues to rise.

“I don’t know if it should be at 3 percent or lower than that,” he said.

Ms. Bailey said she would like to see the tax levy at 2.8 percent, rather than at 3 percent.

“If they (the residents) see the 2 percent in there, they can relate better,” Ms. Bailey said. “I would.”

In the past four years the board has cut programs, staff and used the unrestricted fund balance to make a reasonable budget for tax payers, according to the budget newsletter.

Ms. Perkins noted that residents may question why there is more money for sports and why educational programs, rather than sports programs, have been cut.

“Sports builds so many more social skills,” she said. “That’s why we keep the programs.”

Currently the sports budget is $102,675, making the cost at 64 cents per $1,000 assessment. On a $50,000 home, the estimated tax for sports is $32 for the year.

A proposition will ask for approval to purchase one bus and one eight-passenger Suburban at a cost not exceed $113,895

A budget hearing will take place at 6 p.m. May 14 in the high school library. Voting will take place from noon to 8 p.m. May 21 in the high school library.

Budget documents will be available to the public on Wednesday.

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