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May 13, 2013

ELCS tax levy up almost 4%

School also struggling with retirement, benefit costs

ELIZABETHTOWN — Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School has been able to keep its 2013-14 budget increase under the amount allowed by New York state.

The proposed budget totals $7,683,421, up 3.5 percent from this year.

The tax levy, which is the amount raised by property taxes, is $3,473,640, an increase of 3.99 percent.

The state formula allows an increase of up to 4.28.

“It was important for us to build a budget plan where we are able to maintain essential programs yet still demonstrate fiscal responsibility to our communities,” said new ELCS Superintendent Scott Osborne.

The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value is $13.55, up 4 percent.

The total of assessed value for the district is $256,402,800, with tax-exempt property valued at $135,604,400.

USE OF FUND BALANCE 

“The state continues to suffocate our financial standing,” Osborne said. “While some state aid was restored in the enacted state budget, we’re still forced to commit $500,000 of our reserves toward the problem.

“As we do that, we deplete our reserves, which we consider our financial ‘shock absorber’ in the event we experience a spike in fuel prices, a broken-down bus or some other unforeseen expense that we cannot control.

“If the state continues to underfund its public schools, we’ll need to rely on our reserves even more,” Osborne said. “As we rely on our reserves, they will eventually run out. It’s quite possible in the foreseeable future we won’t have the fund balance to offset the problem.”

RISING COSTS

Several areas responsible for major increases include: BOCES services, up $42,943, though the district was originally projecting an increase of $63,000; health-insurance costs, up $183,768; Medicare reimbursement, $3,500 higher; liability insurance, a $1,023 increase; Employee Retirement System, up $8,627; and the Teacher Retirement System, up $79,394.

STAFF, SPENDING CUTS

Cuts in staff or programs were proposed in two levels in designing the 2013-14 spending plan.

Reductions in Level 1 were aimed to reduce supplies, materials and services in efforts to operate the district with more efficiency.

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