Greenport adopts $15.5 million budget; sets tax levy at 3.93%

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04/12/2013 3:00 PM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Greenport Board of Education adopted next year's spending plan Wednesday night.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Greenport Board of Education adopted next year’s spending plan Wednesday night.

The Greenport Board of Education adopted Superintendent Michael Comanda’s $15.5 million budget proposal Wednesday night, which carries an estimated 3.93 percent increase to next year’s tax levy.

The proposed budget represents a roughly 3.75 percent spending increase from this year’s plan. It doesn’t include layoffs and preserves classroom and extracurricular programs.

While a state law passed in 2011 caps year-to-year increases in the tax levy — the total amount the district collects from taxpayers — at 2 percent, the district is allowed to exceed the mandate because some expenses, such as pensions and capital costs, are exempt.

By calculating in those exemptions, Mr. Comanda said Greenport is allowed to raise the tax levy by as much as 4.9 percent without needing to obtain 60 percent voter approval. However, he said his administration and the school board’s goal was to present a budget to residents below that amount.

“It is under the allowable cap, which we had committed to the community last year when we exceeded the cap,” Mr. Comanda said during the meeting. “We said ‘support us on that and we’ll work hard to get you a budget under the cap.’ We feel very good about this year’s expenditures.”

The district was successful in gaining a supermajority approval from the public at last year’s school budget vote to pierce the cap above the 5.04 percent allowable rate. That $14.9 million spending plan carried a 6.86 percent hike to the tax levy.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Mr. Comanda described how the 2013-14 budget process unfolded. He said that he had initially allocated a chunk of the district’s reserves to offset the tax levy but was able to apply about $170,000 of newly restored state aid to it instead. The move will help to replenish the district’s underfunded reserves account, he said, and some of the state aid will also go toward paying additional special education costs slated for the 2013-14 school year.

The extra state aid wasn’t anticipated when Governor Andrew Cuomo released his tentative state budget in January in Albany.

Mr. Cuomo’s proposed spending plan had earmarked $1.12 million in state aid for the Greenport district for the 2013-14 school year, which would have been a 0.87 percent decrease over the current school year. Two months later, the state Legislature secured a 15.06 percent boost, totaling $1.3 million.

Now that the Greenport school board has unanimously approved next year’s spending plan, a May 14 public hearing has been set. The proposed budget will go before voters May 21.

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