District banking on state aid increases to balance budget

Most residents in the Greater Amsterdam School District could see a reduction in their school taxes for the 2016-17 school year, although the proposed budget has not been finalized while the district waits for the New York State Legislature to pass the state budget.

At this month’s regular Board of Education meeting, school business manager Kim Brumley informed the board that, under the state‘s property tax cap limits, the maximum allowable tax levy for next year is $20.87 million, a reduction of $113,976 from the current year’s tax levy.

Brumley has prepared a preliminary budget using figures based off of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget. Using the governor’s proposal for projected state aid and factoring in the tax levy decrease, the district’s preliminary budget is short $1.97 million.

However, the individual budget proposals from the New York State Senate and Assembly feature budget increases above Cuomo’s initial proposal, which may close GASD’s budget gap. GASD Superintendent Thomas Perillo and Brumley expressed their belief that the state legislature will pass a budget increasing aid exceeding Cuomo’s proposed budget.

Perillo said, “You would think with those two proposals, with the higher levels being proposed, that there will probably be some type of a medium of what they would agree on, which would still be much over what the governor’s original proposal was in January.”

Under the reduced tax levy, taxpayers in the City of Amsterdam will see a tax rate of $27.22 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value, a decrease of 17 cents from the current year’s rate. The Town of Amsterdam’s new rate will be $206.20 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value, a decrease of $5.89. All municipalities in the GASD will see a reduction in the tax rate except for the Town of Florida, which will see a 4 cent increase to a rate of $40.38.

Brumley said that two of the factors in the reduction in the tax cap were increasing payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreements and increasing capital expenditures. Although the district’s budget cannot be completed until the state’s budget process is finished, the tax rate has been finalized. Brumley said, “The tax levy is what it is. That’s what’s in the budget.”

For the preliminary budget, Brumley said that she rolled over the current year’s expenses while accounting for contractual increases in salaries and other required increases. The preliminary budget totals $67.62 million, an increase of 3.9 percent over the current year’s budget.

The budget features a 4.9 percent increase in professional salaries to $23.56 million, a 1.8 percent increase in support staff salaries to $4.85 million, a 12.5 percent increase in BOCES services to $6.94 million, and a 7.4 percent increase in debt service to $8.29 million.

Until the state budget is approved, Perillo said, “Our next step is to continue to review all line items in our current proposal and make any adjustments that we can, and obviously, as I said, monitor the state budget process.”

The school board is scheduled to vote on a tentative proposed budget at next month’s regular meeting on April 20. A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on May 3, and the annual budget vote will take place on May 17.

Ashley Onyon

Ashley Onyon is a graduate of the journalism program at SUNY Albany. She has contributed articles to The Mohawk Valley Independent and the annual journal Upstream.