CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. The Croton-Harmon School District was forced to cut nearly $500,000 from last year's budget to fall under the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.
The board unanimously approved the budget Thursday. The board said it managed to avoid severe program cuts or layoffs while budgeting under the tax cap, but raised red flags about what cuts the future may hold.
Revenue to support schools from sources other than the local taxpayers has been declining at an alarming rate, Edward Fuhrman, superintendent of Croton-Harmon Schools, wrote in his budget message. We can no longer develop a budget with the goal of balancing educational needs and taxpayer needs. The budget is determined by a formula which caps taxpayer revenue in an economic climate where other revenue sources are decreasing.
Fuhrman said creating a regulation where a 60 percent supermajority of voters must approve budgets to override the cap takes control away from local districts. Although the state has generally capped levy increases at 2 percent, a complex formula handed down to school districts by the state can reduce the cap significantly.
Because Croton-Harmon has limited debt, which can be exempted from the cap, the districts levy limit is a .61 percent increase. Funds raised to pay capital debt are exempted from the cap, though some school districts may have an effective tax levy higher than 2 percent.
The budget presented by the school district, to be voted on May 15, represents a 1.08 percent decrease in actual dollars, the board said. Because of a change to the states equalization rate, which affects home assessment values, taxpayers in the Town of Cortlandt face an estimated 1.04 percent tax rate increase, taxpayers in the Town of Yorktown face an estimated .19 percent decrease.
To find the $474,435 in savings the district needed to come under the cap, one retiring second grade teacher will not be replaced and one fourth grade teacher will take a one-year unpaid leave of absence, district officials said.
Other savings included five retirees, at $300,000, a $91,000 reduction in the technology budget, an $82,685 reduction in the operations and maintenance budget and $32,000 reduction in staff development.
Because of declines in other revenues, the school district reduced its budget by $474,435, officials said.
The budget vote will be held May 15 at Croton-Harmon High School, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Ballot items will include the proposed $43,386,393 school budget, the Croton Free Library tax levy of $782,097, the election of two school board candidates and authorization of a five-year bond anticipation note for three new buses, not to exceed $335,000.