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April 9, 2013

Taxes could rise 2 percent

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — PENDLETON - Taxes are expected to rise just under 2 percent if nothing changes with Starpoint’s 2013-14 school year budget.

As it stands, the $46.5 million spending plan would require roughly $25.8 million from taxes, a tax levy rise of 3.18 percent. That is below the district’s tax levy cap of 4.86 percent.

That would cause the tax rate to rise about 1.99 percent, or 43 cents per $1,000 of assessed land value. The average rate would rise to about $22.23 per $1,000 for Starpoint residents.

Last month, Starpoint board members asked Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan to look for an additional $250,000 in cuts. The feeling was voters would not support a budget that raised taxes by over 2 percent.

Jonathan Andrews, the district’s director of administrative services, said Starpoint was going to receive about $18.7 million or $720,000 more in state aid. That was $340,000 more than Gov. Andrew Cuomo had presented in his executive budget in January, so the extra aid reduced the tax rate effect.

Whelan voiced his concern about the state controlling the two major revenue sources for districts: school aid and the local tax levy. While Starpoint has tried to manage expenses and plan ahead, it’s been difficult keeping up with increased costs, the superintendent said.

“We’ve done everything we can with the expenses we control,” Whelan said.

If nothing changes at the state level, keeping taxes at an annual 2 percent rise for the next few years could negatively affect the district, Whelan said.

“It would eventually erode the programs here we cherish so much,” he said.

Andrews said Starpoint took it on the chin with pension costs. For the 2013-14 year, the pension rate rose to 16.25 percent, up from 11.4 percent during the current school year. That $700,000 bump was more than the district had planned.

Board members noted that have to balance the quality of school programs with the burden on taxpayers.

“It’s a tightrope walk,” said Board President Mark Ewart.

Board members are expecting to adopt the budget April 23.

STARPOINT'S 2013-14 BUDGET BY THE NUMBERS • TOTAL: $46.5 million, up about 2.62 percent or $1.2 million in spending • TAX CAP: Budget raises tax levy by 3.18 percent, below the cap of 4.86 percent, to $25.8 million • TAX EFFECT: Tax rate expected to rise 1.99 percent or roughly 43 cents per $1,000

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.

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