Press-Republican

April 29, 2013

Chazy maintains school programs, lowers tax levy

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — CHAZY — No cuts in staff or programs come with the budget of almost $9.9 million that the Chazy Central Rural School Board adopted recently.

CCRS Superintendent John Fairchild told the Press-Republican the district had three main goals when developing the spending plan for 2013-14: to maintain programs for students, propose a tax levy below the school’s calculated limit and avoid cuts to faculty and staff.

“We were actually successful on all three items,” he said.

No cuts are necessary, according to Fairchild, thanks, in part, to increases in both state aid and available fund balance. 

“We’re in pretty good shape,” he said. 

HEALTHY FUND BALANCE

The district will receive $178,000 more from the state in 2013-14 than in the current year, an increase of $107,000 over what was initially proposed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget proposal.

In addition, CCRS was able to move $1,153,589 from its tax-certiorari account to its fund balance, making it available for unrestricted use.

The certiorari money was held for several years while Pfizer challenged the assessment of its Chazy property; however, Fairchild said, the dispute was settled last year, when the facility was sold to Clinton Industrial Development Acquisition LLC.

As a result, the district will allocate just over $1 million in reserves to next school year’s budget and expects to have about $1 million of fund balance remaining at the end of 2013-14.

Chazy Central will also receive $281,000 from the William H. Miner Foundation next school year. This is $5,000 more than the organization pledged for the current academic year.

OFF TAX ROLLS

In addition, Fairchild said, the dedication of the board, as well as the willingness of the district’s bargaining groups to accept no or minimal salary increases, has helped CCRS in recent years to maintain opportunities for students despite fiscal challenges.

While the district is allowed a tax-levy limit of 4.99 percent for 2013-14, the board-approved spending plan carries a tax-levy increase of minus 1.99 percent, or $84,167 less than that of 2012-13.

However, Fairchild noted, an increase in the tax rate is likely as a result of the Pfizer property’s removal from the tax rolls.

Though the facility is under contract to be sold to Victor and Stephen Podd of Northstar Private Capital LLC, the superintendent said the district is uncertain when the property will return to the tax rolls, what its assessed value will be or whether it will warrant payments in lieu of taxes. 

For that reason, he said, the spending plan was developed under the assumption that the property will not be taxable in 2013-14, and, therefore, the district wished not to approach its tax-levy limit, as that could have resulted in a large tax-rate increase.  

“(We) didn’t want that for the community,” Fairchild said.

PFIZER SALE HOPEFUL

Still, Chazy Central’s actual tax rate won’t be determined until the end of the summer, when annual property assessments are made available. 

The board’s plan, Fairchild noted, is to use the former tax-certiorari money over the next several years to gradually stabilize the tax rate. 

He added that the district is hopeful that the sale of the old Pfizer facility will bring jobs to the area, as well as additional assessment for the tax rolls.  

“We’re excited,” Fairchild said of the prospects. 

CCRS will hold a public budget hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, in the school’s board room, when he will present a detailed overview of the spending plan. 

The budget will go up for public vote on Tuesday, May 21.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com