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Carthage Central board members worried about keeping taxes flat

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WEST CARTHAGE — Area residents happy about not paying more in school taxes this year might not want to get used to it.

As more and more districts make layoffs to close budget gaps, some Carthage Central School District Board of Education members voiced concerns about not increasing taxes, saying it could lead the district toward financial insolvency.

At last year’s budget hearing, some residents complained about the 1 percent tax levy hike for the current year’s budget. For next year, there is no increase in the tax levy.

“As you all know, I’m concerned about going out at a zero,” board Vice President Lori D. Miller said at the April 22 meeting at the high school. She said she thinks it would be irresponsible of the board if it didn’t inform the public that this “is not how it’s going to be every year.”

“We don’t know how long our reserves are going to last,” Mrs. Miller said.

The board that night adopted the $55,050,712 budget for the 2013-14 school year. The plan has a $2,077,743, or 3.9 percent, increase from the current year’s $52,972,969 budget.

“Our retirement benefits went up a million dollars and we’re absorbing that,” Mrs. Miller said.

Board member Kent D. Burto said that the time to bring up such concerns is not minutes before the board needs to adopt the budget.

“If you don’t want to go along with it, don’t go along with it,” Mr. Burto said.

He said the levy was decided by the district’s budget committee. He said that going forward, he would like to see more discussion on school staffing.

“I’m concerned about the process,” said board member Mary Louise Hunt. “I don’t know how to change it. Just because we’ve done it this way for a while doesn’t mean we need to stick to this way.”

She said the board should look at how other districts create and discuss their budgets.

Board President Barbara A. Lofink said that, like Mrs. Miller, she worries when she hears about other schools closing their budget gaps by cutting programs and staff.

“What we don’t want to do is deplete our fund balance to the point that we can’t replenish it,” she said.

However, board member Joseph A. Colangelo said he would not feel right raising taxes as long as the board has enough money to keep them down.

“Is it fair to tax the community when we have $9 million sitting in there?” he said.

Superintendent Peter J. Turner — who in past board meetings recommended the tax levy stay flat — said Business Manager Amy M. Marrocco would need to comment as to the status of the district’s finances. However, she was not available Friday for comment.

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