Editor's note: The headline on this story that ran in the March 19th edition of the Somers Record was incorrect. The proposed school budget for next year remains under the tax levy cap for the ninth year in a row. This year's tax levy is inside the allowable tax limit set by state calculations. It does not require a supermajority because the levy falls below the tax cap as calculated by the state formula. It was reviewed by the state.

SOMERS, N.Y. - The Somers Central School District last week unveiled a preliminary budget for 2020-2021 of $95.7 million, an increase of 2.26 percent over the current spending plan.

The presentation was made to the Board of Education on Tuesday, March 3, by assistant superintendent for business Ken Crowley and assistant superintendent for learning Julie Gherardi, who will be retiring at the end of this school year.
The board on Tuesday accepted her resignation. It will be effective as of July 1.

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The proposed budget is $2,118,832 higher than the current $93,677,220. If approved as is in May, the tax levy will rise to $81,525,233, up from $79,777,785, an increase of 2.19 percent, Crowley said.

In 2011, the state Legislature passed property tax relief legislation that imposes a 2 percent cap on tax levy increases, or the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower. If a school district proposes an annual budget that would exceed that cap, then the budget must be approved by 60 percent of voters. If voters reject the district’s proposed budget twice, the board must adopt a contingent budget.

Contingent expenses are those necessary to provide minimum services to operate and maintain school buildings and the educational program, preserve district property and ensure the health and safety of students and staff. It can’t result in a tax levy greater than the taxes levied for the prior school year.

If the budget is not approved by voters, the district has several options: It can resubmit the same budget for another vote on June 16; it can revise the budget and submit it for a vote on June 16; or it can adopt a contingent budget with a tax levy increase of zero from the previous year. The contingent budget could potentially be $94,048,604, $1,747,488 less than the proposed preliminary plan. The tax levy under a contingency scenario would be $79,777,785.

According to Crowley, the district anticipates asking voters to pass a separate proposition to establish and authorize the transfer of year-end funds to a capital reserve fund to offset the cost of future infrastructure needs such as additional parking lots.

The capital reserve would be set with a limit of $10 million with a probable term of 10 years, Crowley said.

In 2014, voters approved the establishment of the reserve fund to repair and maintain roofs, heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment, masonry, athletic fields and track, and security upgrades.

The reserve had a funding limit of $5 million. The source of the funds was money left over at the end of the school year. The probable term of the fund was seven years, Crowley said.

Items that were paid for from the reserve were: security vestibules at the high school ($203,000); turf field and fitness center at the high school ($1.6 million); and the districtwide safety/security project ($3.1 million.)

The propose budget includes funding for 1.6 more positions, including a full-time monitor at the middle school and a music teacher so the orchestra program could take place during the regular school day.

BOARD ELECTIONS

Two seats are up for grabs this year.

Board president Dr. Lindsay Portnoy and trustee MaryRose Joseph both plan to seek reelection.

Addressing the public Tuesday, Portnoy said that while she would “very much love it if you would have me serve again,” she encouraged “as many folks as interested to throw their hats in the ring” for school board.

“This is a democracy,” she added. “Everyone should be stepping up.”

Petitions are available in the district clerk’s office. Anyone interested in running must file no later than 5 p.m. Monday, April 20.

For more information, contact Nancy Corrado at 914-277-2403.