School budget won’t raise taxes

Zero percent school tax increase for Granville

The Granville School Board approved a $23.1 million 2009-2010 budget Monday night, a package that includes no tax increase for the majority of residents of the district.

Superintendent Dan Teplesky said he and business manager Cathy Somich had followed board direction and gone back to cut an additional $89,000 from the budget, combined with the use of $22,500 from the school’s fund balance producing the zero percent tax increase budget.

The budget eliminates four positions from the district, two teachers and two teacher’s assistants. Three of the reductions will be met through retirements or resignations; one teaching position will be lost, officials said.

Although discussion of the matter mentioned a specific person, district officials said a position, not a person, had been eliminated.

Restored state funding, as a result of the federal economic stimulus package, could provide an avenue to create a new position.

“We’re going to post internally and see what happens,” Board President Kathy Nelson said after the meeting. Board members Dee Bergeron and Pam Tatko voted against the budget due to the loss of the teaching position, but the measure passed 6-2 with Ron Daigle absent.

Teplesky said two other area districts had achieved zero budget growth and zero tax increase –Whitehall and Warrensburg, districts who eliminated 12 and 7 full time positions, respectively.

Comparing Granville to other districts, Teplesky said Greenwich had cut six positions, Hudson Falls five, Argyle eight jobs and Salem 11 positions, most of them teaching jobs.

The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation will remain the same as 2008 at $17.978 for Granville, while rates in Hampton will drop by 18 cents; Whitehall by 18.2 cents and in Hebron by a whopping $18.42, down from $33.16. The swing in Hebron results from the recent revaluation which brought the town to 100 percent valuation and brings the town into line with others in the district at $14.74 per $1,000.

The budget plan also includes the creation of reserve funds to offset large anticipated swings in retirement fund payments for the district.

Somich said the school’s fund balance was projected to reach $1.3 million by June 30 of this year, but added the state recommends four percent of a school’s budget or $908,411 for a $22,710,287 budget be reserved “or you’re considered fiscally irresponsible.”

Teplesky said instead of reducing taxes with the funds, he instead recommended establishing reserves for anticipated increases in the unemployment as well as retirement payouts for teachers and support staff the school is required to make.

The $650,000 payment the school would make toward the teacher’s retirement fund and the $165,000 for support staff retirement were each projected to double next year, Teplesky said.

“Where do you get that kind of money from this budget?” Teplesky asked.

Creation of the reserve funds would insulate the school against this anticipated surge in costs, he said.

The superintendent said voting down the budget would actually cost taxpayers more money because a contingency budget was allowed to increase as much as the consumer price index or 4 percent.

The contingency budget would be $437,466 higher than the approved plan.  

Board member John Steves said, “I’m not happy, I’m not overjoyed, but it’s a pretty good budget considering the times. It’s fiscally responsible, but I don’t think it impacts education.”

In some ways Steves said he thought Granville was fortunate because the building project got in under the wire and when completed will update the school district into the 21st century.

“It puts Granville in a pretty good place,” he said. 

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