Highland school board adopts revised budget that will need 'supermajority' approval (updated)
HIGHLAND, N.Y. — The Board of Education has adopted a revised budget proposal for 2012-13 that will need support from a 60 percent “supermajority” of voters to be approved because its proposed increase in the property tax levy is above the cap set by the state.
The $36.14 million proposal calls for a spending increase of 0.03 percent from the 2011-12 level but is $721,237 smaller than the budget proposal voters rejected on May 15.
The initial plan called for a 5.12 percent increase in the property tax levy, while the revised plan calls for a 2 percent hike. The Highland cap set by the state is just 0.87 percent.
The initial plan won the support of 51 percent of voters, well short of the 60 percent needed for approval.
To trim the $721,237 from the rejected proposal, the revised budget calls for:
• Saving $195,000 by not replacing four people who are retiring — the district transportation director, a secretary, a teacher’s assistant and a teacher’s aide — and replacing other retirees with lower-paid employees.
• Applying about $300,000 in contingency funds to the budget.
• Making $226,000 worth of cuts by replacing a registered nurse with a licensed practical nurse; cutting a part-time grade 7-12 English teacher and a speech therapist; reducing a library and media arts specialist job to quarter-time; reducing the hours of a grade 7-12 math teaching job by 40 percent; and having some salaries funded by grants.
The Highland budget proposal that was rejected on May 15 called for eliminating six jobs, including a foreign language teacher and a part-time English teacher.
If the revised plan is rejected by voters on June 19, the district will have to freeze its property tax levy at the 2011-12 level. The Freeman has calculated that would force another $460,000 in cuts. Continued...
The state’s 0.87 percent cap on increasing the property tax levy in Highland was the lowest among 16 school districts in the region. The average cap was 2.81 percent.
Highland Superintendent Deborah Haab has said the district’s low cap was the result of a state aid payment for an old capital project impacting the complicated formula used to calculate the cap.
Among the 16 districts, the only three in which budget proposals were defeated on May 15 were those in which the tax levy exceeded the cap — Highland, New Paltz and Germantown.
The Highland school board adopted the revised budget in a 5-2 vote on Tuesday, with Trustees Vincent Rizzi and Kim Sweeney casting the “no” votes, voicing reluctance to roll the dice by counting on supermajority support for the new spending plan.
“I’m not a gambler,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said she feared what falling short again at the polls mean for the district.
Trustee Sue Gilmore expressed confidence the revised budget will pass once voters learn of the deep cuts that will be necessary if it fails.
Haab, expressing concern about the Highland district’s long-term financial viability under the cap, has been studying options that include merging with other school districts.
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