Residents of the Clarence school district should expect to vote on a budget that calls for a 9.8 percent property tax levy increase when they go to the polls next month.
That was the message this week from school officials, as residents were updated on the outlook for the district’s $73.3 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.
A possible 9.8 percent tax levy increase has been talked about for several weeks. Superintendent Geoffrey M. Hicks said he does not expect that figure to change before the School Board adopts the budget on Monday.
The district recently learned it is receiving nearly $270,000 in additional state aid. Those funds are expected to be directed toward restoring four teaching positions that were targeted for elimination. If the entire $270,000 had instead been applied toward the tax levy, instead of restoring jobs, district residents would have faced a tax levy increase of 9.1 percent.
“In the estimation of the board, and honestly, based on a recommendation from me, we felt as though the most beneficial thing for kids and programs and for the school district at this point in time was to restore [teaching] positions,” Hicks said.
Since a 9.8 percent property tax levy increase exceeds the district’s 3.7 percent cap, the budget will require at least 60 percent voter support on May 21 in order to pass.
The district needs to cover a budget gap of nearly $4 million. Hicks has said the proposed spending plan already contains extensive cuts, including in personnel, and he feels going deeper would detract from the district’s educational program.
“We believe that we have crafted a budget that protects the core programs that define the Clarence School District and, in a one-year time frame, helps us to be more fiscally responsible in the future,” Hicks said.
In a presentation to residents this week, Hicks projected that if the proposed budget passes, the district would not have to exceed the tax levy cap in the ensuing three years. The projections – based on certain assumptions – were for a 2.9 percent tax levy increase in 2014-15, followed by 2.9 percent and 2.8 percent increases, respectively, in the following two years.
“We don’t believe we’re going to continue to have high tax levies for the foreseeable future,” Hicks said. “We believe that this is a correction year for us, in order to make up some of the lost state aid and the utilization of reserve funds, so that we can get back on track.”
A 9.8 percent tax levy increase would mean the owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 would pay about $141 in additional property taxes.