School Board adopts budget with 1.5 % tax hike

Eyeing an uncertain financial future and rising costs of operational essentials, the Granville Board of Education approved sending a $24 million budget to the voters May 17.

The $24,048,554 budget will increase taxes less than the anticipated 2 percent cap looming over next year, with a 1.5-percent tax increase for 2011-2012.

The budget will use $684,000 from the district’s fund balance to make up for the shortfall in state education aid when Governor Andrew Cuomo chopped $1.5 billion from education aid in his state budget proposal.

With the aid cut, Granville lost more than $1.6 million over two years with state aid restored in the budget amounting to just $91,000.

The majority of the jobs losses remain in the budget with 15 support staff positions being eliminated. The proposed elimination of 13 teachers’ positions was reduced with a deal announced by the district April 7.

Concessions from the Granville Teacher’s Association in the form of a salary freeze and healthcare considerations helped to reduce the number of teacher layoffs included in the budget by five, from 13 to eight. At the meeting, President of the Granville Administrators’ Association Kristie Gijanto announced her group was also offering a pay freeze which would save the district an additional $7,000.

“The revenues and concessions put us in a better position going forward,” Bessen said.

As part of the agreement with the teacher’s union, district officials returned to the budget and made additional cuts to help restore those teaching positions eliminating some planned equipment purchases such as furniture and musical instruments.

District officials said the cuts to the budget totaled $1 million and included reducing a district office position from full to part time, shifting the schedule of a janitor who previously received overtime for working on Saturday and reduced spending for field trips and library books.

The board broke 5-4 on two votes on the budget proposal.

The first vote, on approving a budget containing no tax increase for what could have been the third year in a row, fell 5-4.

Board president Kathy Nelson then asked for a motion on a spending plan with a 1.5 percent tax increase which passed with Nelson casting the deciding vote in favor of the tax increase.

The tax increase will add $98,500 in revenue as 1 percent of the budget is approximately $65,000. 

Polling the board before the vote, members expressed reservations regarding the various spending options presented by Somich and Bessen. Bessen presented options for tax levy increases from 0 to 2 percent.

Those opposed to any tax increase including Nelson, Kelly Hoard and Dee Bergeron, cited the existing tax burden on residents including seniors on fixed incomes who have not had a ‘raise’ in two years.

Citing rising costs, particularly fuel, John Shaw, Eric Scribner and John McDermott said they thought a small step was better than a large surge when it came to taxes.

“We can do zero and be a hero this year, but costs are going up…I think we should move a little bit at a time,” Shaw said.

“Slow and steady is a lot easier to budget for so I strongly advocate for one and a half,” McDermott said.

Board member Pam Tatko twice voted against the budget proposals, saying she could not vote for any plan that eliminated a program she characterized as essential – driver education.

“I cannot vote against the safety of the students,” she said.

Nearly 20 community members, teachers and staff attended the meeting held at Granville Elementary.

Among them was town supervisor Matt Hicks who advised the board to consider their options regarding tax increases as they will likely be constrained by Cuomo’s 2 percent tax cap next year; overriding the cap will require a 60 percent majority approving a plan calling for more than a 2 percent tax increase under the proposed measure.

Former school board president and interim town supervisor Beverly Tatko encouraged the board to hold the line for one more year and approve a spending plan with no tax increase.

The budget vote will take place May 17 in the auditorium at Granville High School with voting hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The seats currently held by board incumbents President Kathy Nelson, John Shaw and Pam Tatko will be up for grabs as well.

 

 

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