ELLENBURG — Northern Adirondack Central School’s 2012-13 budget carries no tax-levy increase.
The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value at the district has continued to decrease for several years and will likely do so once again.
Yet 60 percent of the voters, or a super majority, will be required to pass the spending plan.
“What ended up happening with us is that our tax-cap formula made us come out at a negative 10 percent, and that would have been our tax cap which we would have had to dramatically lower the tax rate, and that would have also meant losing a lot of positions,” said Superintendent Laura Marlow.
The Northern Adirondack Central School Board unanimously approved an $18.5 million 2012-13 budget. It represents an increase of 1.53 percent over the current spending plan.
But it carries a zero percent tax levy increase, marking three years running the district has carried the same tax levy amount.
School officials estimate that the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value will be $10.57, which is 10 cents less than it is now.
Yet, the spending plan requires approval of 60 percent of voters because it exceeds the district’s tax levy increase limit of negative 10 percent.
“If we were to go with that negative percentage we would lose five to seven more positions, and there is no reason to do that because we are at a zero tax impact,” Marlow said.
The tax cap was publicized around the state as two percent, but as many districts realized, the formula varied at their individual schools, at times surpassing the 2 percent figure and at other times coming in lower, though not as low as at Northern Adirondack Central School.
“So we went with a zero percent tax cap increase,” Marlow said.
The school district’s situation is the result of an anticipated increase in payment-in-lieu-of-taxes revenues.
Northern Adirondack Central School receives annual PILOT payments from three wind farms operated by Noble Environmental Power and is projected to receive additional funds from a second set of wind farms being constructed by Marble River LLC.
“The PILOT monies have certainly been helpful to our district,” Marlow said. “We are certainly in a lot better shape.”
Marlow said the PILOT revenues and district’s fund balance helped to bridge Northern Adirondack’s $1 million shortfall that was a result of reduced state aid over the years. The district, along with many others across the country, also saw federal stimulus funds run out.
“The unusual part of our budget is the zero percent tax impact,” Marlow said. “That is what we have to do. We have to be able to get a 60 percent supermajority.”
Marlow is fairly confident that will occur as the community has historically been supportive of the budget and demonstrated a 60-percent approval rate in the past.
“It is a little disheartening that we have to get a supermajority vote in order to have a zero percent tax impact,” Marlow said.
The budget includes minor reductions, at least compared to many surrounding districts, such as not replacing a Title 1 teacher, reducing the music program to part-time and discontinuing the GED program, which included eliminating a teacher assistant position.
The district also lost a pair of library aide positions.
“We have been able to maintain, by and large, our faculty and staff for the most part,” Marlow said. “I think we are in pretty good shape here.”
Marlow pointed out that in 2006-07 the tax rate was $13.48 and seven years later will be $10.57.
“I firmly believe a good education isn’t about the money but is about the quality of teachers, the dedicated employees and a sound administration,” Marlow said.