ELIZABETHTOWN -At the start of the night, the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School District budget had a proposed tax levy increase of five-percent.
By the end of the April 14 meeting, the board and administration had cut that down to 3.99-percent.
Both cases are better than the original 8.8-percent increase the board was presented with during the initial stages of the budget process.
"It has been a long process from getting from the original deficit to a five-percent increase to where we are now," school board president Robert Wagner said. "The five-percent was where we requested the administration to be at this meeting, but I have no objections to going lower. This was a hard process and it was no fun."
The projected tax levy calls for $3,253,746 to be raised through tax collection, an increase of $124,843, or 3.99-percent.
Under 2010 figures, the increase would lead to a 49-cent increase in tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value. That would mean a tax increase of $49 for property assessed at $100,000.
While the spending plan proposed is down from the $7,504,953 of 2010-11, revenues fell $284,990 from $7,504,953 in 2010-11 to $7.219,963 projected for 2011-12.
Board member Tammy Apthorp started the meeting by saying that while she was in favor of looking at a five-percent increase at the last meeting, she wanted to see if there was any chance the levy could be lowered more.
"I just think that it is too much," Apthorp said. "I feel there are things that we should still trim."
"If tweaking can get us down another percent, then I can't think of any school board that would not do that," board member Karin DeMuro said. "I do not feel comfortable about a five-percent increase after talking to people."
"I want it to be lower and I am not comfortable with the percentage, either," board member Karen Hooper said.
As part of the "tweak," board members asked the administration to add $10,704 in fund balance that would be used to offset state aid cuts, bringing the total of used fund balance to $510,704 for the 2011-12 budget, compared to a fund balance usage of $415,000 in 2010-11.
Wagner said that he was concerned with using much more of the reserves.
"I think that we have heard from everyone who knows something about this and their advice is not to go overboard with fund balance," Wagner said.
Board vice president Brett Sicola said he felt confident with the budget since it included a reduction of $160,147 in spending (2.13-percent).
"The budget is over two-percent less than last year, and it is unfortunate that we still have to increase the levy," Sicola said.
Apthorp said that she felt taxpayers worried more about the levy number than the budget decrease.
"When you say that we are coming in two-percent less than last year, no one cares," she said. "They say that you should be coming in 10-percent less."
After the board adopted a school spending plan in the amount of $7,344,806 for vote on May 17, school superintendent Gail Else said that she would try and make things very clear in terms of what the numbers meant to the taxpayers.
"I will make it very simple in my message to the voters and say that here are the numbers and this is where are final percentages put us," Else said.
The public hearing for the adopted budget will be held on Tuesday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m.
The budget and school board vote will be held on Tuesday, May 17 from noon until 8 p.m. in the school lobby.