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Carthage Central School approves budget with 5.38% decrease in tax levy

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WEST CARTHAGE — The Board of Education has adopted a 2014-15 budget that will reduce the tax levy 5.38 percent.

“Our budget is up but our tax levy is down,” Carthage Central School District Superintendent Peter J. Turner said.

The budget, approved Monday night, sets next year’s spending at $59,125,971, an increase of $4,075,259, or 7.4 percent, from the current school year. The proposed budget calls for $3,849,362 to be used from the fund balance and $990,565 from the debt service fund. The money will be used to pay off the remainder of a $3.3 million bond and to offset costs so the district doesn’t have to raise taxes.

“By paying off the bond now we will save the district $490,000 in interest over the next four years,” Mr. Turner said. “We’re trying to reduce the burden on our taxpayers.”

Mr. Turner said there will be no staff or program reductions.

Carthage Business Manager Amy M. Marrocco said the district, under the tax cap, needed to reduce the tax levy, or amount to be raised through taxes, by 2 percent. Failing to do that would require a 60 percent majority vote to carry a budget.

“We knew we had to reduce; we decided to reduce more,” Ms. Marrocco said. “We were in a position where we had excess fund balance thanks to contributions from Impact Aid.”

With this budget, Ms. Marrocco said, most of the district will not be eligible for a refund check from the state for the property tax freeze proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

“Because our levy is going down, most people won’t see an increase in their taxes,” Ms. Marrocco said.

In year one, the state will provide tax rebates of the amount their tax bills rise to property owners in a jurisdiction that stays within the property tax cap. In year two, the state will provide tax rebates only to homeowners who live in a locality that stays within the cap and agrees to implement a shared services or administrative consolidation plan.

Voters will also vote on three propositions separate from the budget: the purchase of 13 new buses, combined funding of $164,000 for community libraries and establishment of a capital reserve fund.

“Bus fleets are in a six-year rotation so we can avoid high maintenance fees if their warranties run out,” Mr. Turner said. “We’re hoping the people will help us keep up with the buses.”

The capital reserve fund will be able to accumulate a maximum of $10 million to be used with approval from the Board of Education.

“The capital reserve fund will allow us to save for the district’s share of any capital improvement projects,” Mr. Turner said.

For the local libraries, $103,000 will be allocated for the Carthage Free Library and $61,000 for the Sally Ploof Hunter Memorial Library, also known as the village of Black River Free Library.

District members also will vote to fill three vacancies on the Board of Education. Three members’ terms are expiring: those of Kent D. Burto, Mary Louise Hunt and Lyndsey M. Hodkinson. Mr. Turner said Mr. Burto and Mrs. Hunt have submitted petitions for re-election. Abigail L. Hammond also has submitted a petition.

The public will vote on the budget, board vacancies and propositions May 20. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. at the Carthage High School library, 36500 Route 26.

For more information about the budget, visit the district website at www.carthagecsd.org.

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