Press-Republican

May 11, 2013

Newcomb School budget has 24 percent levy hike

BY LOHR McKINSTRY Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — NEWCOMB — The Newcomb Central School budget for 2013-14 eliminates one teaching post and three assistants and still comes in at a 24.7 percent tax-levy increase.

The figure exceeds Newcomb’s state tax-cap formula of 7.16 percent by 17 percent.

Because it exceeds the tax cap, it must be approved by a 60 percent supermajority of district voters.

‘OVERWHELMING’ COSTS

The amount to be raised by taxes for the proposed spending plan is $4.5 million, $894,000 more than 2012-13.

The total budget is $5.8 million, up $549,000, 10.4 percent higher than this year.

One severe budget impact came from using up a fund balance of $150,000 for unforeseen special-education costs, Superintendent Clark “Skip” Hults said.

“This was by far the most difficult budget season we have ever faced. We had special-education needs this year that were not budgeted for, and hence we used up our fund balance.

“In addition, between contractual expenses, (State) Teacher Retirement System, Employee Retirement System, health insurance, a special-education teacher, a new bus and building-construction expenses, our costs increased almost $500,000.

“That (amount of increase) is difficult with a large district, but with a small district, it is overwhelming.”

ENROLLMENT GROWTH

Hults said the School Board decided the district had made too much headway to go backward with programs.

“We have grown almost 100 percent over the last five years, and with our college and international programs, we have one of the most unique districts in New York state.”

Newcomb has 100 students in grades kindergarten through 12, and more than one-third of them are international or out-of-district students who pay tuition and stay with local families.

The school has almost doubled its enrollment since 2006 with its international student program, which serves as a model for other districts.

BUDGET INCREASES

Hults said health-insurance and retirement costs added $200,000 more to the budget; special education, $70,000; and a previously approved building-renovation project, $60,000. In addition, a new special-education teacher will cost $80,000 a year.

New contracts for teachers and non-instructional employees are still being worked out, Hults said. School staff received 3.5 percent raises for 2012-13.

The district is buying a new school bus for $50,000, putting it in the budget instead of on a separate voter proposition.

HOMESTEAD ACT

Newcomb is unique in the North Country because it uses the State Homestead Act to set property-tax rates, so non-resident property owners are taxed at a higher rate than residents.

A large part of Newcomb is state land. The two-tier rates mean Newcomb residents pay much lower taxes than in other towns.

The Homestead Act tax rate for 2013-14 would be $3.12 per $1,000 of assessment, up from $2.82 this year. The non-Homestead rate would be $16.11, from $14 this school year.

The annual budget hearing is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 13 at the school.

The vote is from 1 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, in the school cafeteria.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com