Education

School Budget Calls for Same Tax Rate as Last Year

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Assistant Superintendent for Business Ron Clamser Credits: Bob Dumas
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MAHOPAC, N.Y.— The tentative 2017-18 Mahopac school budget calls for the same tax levy and tax rate as last year with no cuts to programs or positions.

The $120,748,784 spending package is up just half a percent ($629,732) from last year’s budget of $120,119,052.

The tax levy—the total amount to be collected by taxes—is $84,000,268, essentially the same amount that was collected last year.

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The tax rate last year in Carmel was $40.50 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, which was based on 60 percent total value. That’s on course to remain the same. However, in the wake of the recent townwide revaluation, a number of properties have been assessed higher, so their taxes could increase as a result.

“People feel because assessments went up, the school is getting more money,” said Ron Clamser, assistant superintendent for business and human resources. “That’s not the case. The amount of money we get stays the same. Think of it like a pizza. The size of the pie has stayed the same, it’s just the size of slices that make up the pie that have changed. Some have gotten bigger; some have gotten smaller; some have stayed the same.”

Administration costs total $8.7 million (down $31,994 from last year); program costs are at $98.3 million (up $566,116); and capital project expenses come in at $13.8 million (up $95,610).

The biggest part of the expenditure side of the ledger is instruction and service, which makes up 58.69 percent; and benefits and debt service are 27 percent.

On the revenue side, property taxes make up the biggest part of the pie at 69.67 percent. The district will also receive about $33 million in state aid, almost $1.1 million more than last year, Clamser said.

This year’s budget  calls for the renewal of the sound system and stage at the high school and new snow removal equipment for the high school turf field.

“We do stuff like that every year,” Clamser said.

The district will also seek to bring in some new employees.

“We are doing some hiring,” Clamser said. “We are bringing services back to kids that were eliminated during the tough budget cycles of a few years ago.”

The budget calls for the hiring of a high and middle school technology specialist; two English and non-native language (ENL) teachers; as well as a special ed teacher, teaching assistant, teacher’s aide and social worker for Austin Road Elementary.

“There are a couple kids in lower grades who need these services and more coming into the kindergarten,” Clamser said. “We could send them out or create our programs in-house. We feel we can do cheaper.”

Also coming is a new K-12 curriculum specialist to enhance student achievement; a K-5 enrichment teacher and/or 1 PE teacher; a high school STEAM teacher; an elementary school assistant principal; and a computer information systems data manager.

“We are going to handle our own data reporting,” Clamser said of the hiring of the data manager. “We want more local control. We were using BOCES, but it wasn’t as effective. This is a budget savings in the short-term.”

Clamser said there were no layoffs, though there was some minor consolidation.

“We did have some retirements as well and we will replace them with a less expensive person,” he said.

Another cost saving was a retirement incentive the district offered employees this year.

“We are waiving the one-year notice they have to give before retirement, Clamser said. “They can go now and we’ll replace with a cheaper person. They can cash out on accrued sick leave and retire. Before, they’d have to give a year’s notice, but now we are waving that notice.”

One of the biggest savings, Clamser said, came from retirement pension costs.

“The contribution rate [for the district] went down several percentage points,” he noted. “So, the main drivers for the budget not going up are attrition, and pension costs going down. And taxes are not going up because of the increase in state aid.”

In preparing the budget, school officials said their vision was that every student “will graduate a lifelong learner who is well prepared to be a productive contributor in our ever-changing world.”

They also put forth a list of five priorities that guided them in their budget preparation:

• Communication – develop and refine systems of proactive, transparent, honest and timely internal and external communication

• Effective systems – Develop and articulate efficient systems to support both mission and vision

• A growth mindset – Nurture a growth mindset and support personal and professional growth in all stakeholder groups

• Progressive instruction – Support progressive instructional practices that are rigorous, relevant and technology-embedded

• Building relationships/celebrating success – Proactively build the district’s image by emphasizing relationships and celebrating success

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