By Theodore J. Welch
Paul S. Pinto paints with a very broad brush in his analysis on how school fiscal administrators determine the tax levy each year (The Buffalo News, June 3).
While I am sure that a few districts operate as Pinto claims, the process that I am familiar with, both in my district and in the Western New York area, has demonstrated that schools take extraordinary measures to ensure that the amount of money requested from their communities is as appropriate as possible.
Most school districts receive the vast majority of their revenues from state aid and local property taxes. As state aid from Albany has declined or, in some cases, become stagnant, more and more pressure is put on local communities and their levies to fund what has become a fairly basic education. Much of what a school district provides is mandated by New York State.
The tax levy is not decided by the “public school financial administrator.” It is largely a result of the budget process and long-range financial projections. This budget process usually involves not only district administrators but staff members, community members and the board of education as well. It is open and receptive to community input.
The levy is adopted at a public meeting of the school board, most often after a discussion on how the levy number was determined.
Since the 2008-2009 school year, the average levy increase at Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District has been 0.74 percent. Two of those years, the levy was actually reduced from the prior year. Previous boards of education have been very sensitive to the effect of levy increases not only on our residents, but on our educational program as well. Last year, the board decided to use some of its limited fund balance to ensure the final levy amount was the same as we had conveyed to our voters at the annual budget vote.
Our tax determination processes have been audited and endorsed not only by our independent auditors, but by the New York State Comptroller’s Office as well.
Public schools face incredible challenges in the years ahead to deliver quality educational programs to our students so that they can be college and career ready. At the same time, we will continue to be sensitive to our tax levies and their many implications on our community.
To suggest that, year after year, school districts pile up extra levy revenues is inaccurate and misleading.
Theodore J. Welch is business administrator for the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District.