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Lansing Central School District

Lansing school taxpayers can expect a budget increase of approximately 2.36% in the 2019-20 school budget.  School Business Administrator Kate Heath told the Board Of Education Monday that current projections are for a 30,794,650 budget.  She said that the proposed budget is $727,450 more than last year's total.

"We are deep in the budget process," said School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso. "We're looking at all of our current programs, our student population. We're looking at what we have -- things that might not be working and things that are working.  And we're looking at where we would love to be and how we can get there with the resources available to us.  We are coming up with recommendations to the board on how the district delivers services, and new things the schools would like to do."

The presentation Monday was a typical budget cycle update that alerts school board members to issues that will impact the final budget.  As more data becomes available from New York State, the Tompkins County Assessment Office and other sources the numbers are updated until the board approves a final budget before the May budget vote.

"It's a proposed budget increase of 2.36%," Heath said.  "Salary and benefits has a million dollar addition. Some of it is our annual year over year contractual increases.  I think LFA is at 2.6% and our LSSA is at an hourly rate increase.  So that's the majority of it.  Our BOCES staff will be decreased a bit, and part of that is because we are projecting we might pull some of that staff back in-house.  So as our BOCES expenditure decreases our in-house salaries will increase a little bit. And our debt service will be reduced."

The state-imposed tax cap limits the total dollars the district can take in property taxes.  Governor Andrew M. Cuomo imposed a so-called 2% tax cap on property-taxing authorities in 2011.  The cap isn't actually two percent.  it is calculated using a complicated state formula that is, in part, based on the past year's levy.  Each year taxing authorities including towns, cities, villages, and school districts have the option of going over the calculated cap, but only if a super-majority of their board members vote to do so. 

Cuomo launched a 'No Tax Cap - No Deal!' campaign Wednesday to make the property tax cap permanent, saying he will not sign a state budget that doesn't include the permanent property tax cap.  Heath said the district is trying to stay below the tax cap again this year.

"I'm $99 under the tax cap at the moment," Heath said. "That's a levy increase of 2.88%.  If the property assessed values stay where they are as of right now it's a .85% increase in the tax rate, so less than one percent increase on the tax rate.  An on-time state budget could have an impact on what our state aid numbers look like.  The BOCES numbers may fluctuate as we move forward.  And we're still finalizing district and building needs."

Heath projected that payroll will account for $55,630 of about a million dollars above last year's expenditures, and benefits account for $473,632.  State aid is projected to rise by $199,530, bringing it to $9,435,798.  these projections are calculated on the Governor's executive budget, and will not be firm numbers until the state budget is passed.  Heath said she is hopeful that the State Legislature will pass their budget before the school budget vote in May so she can present more accurate numbers.  With $83,599 less in debt service plus $229,213 fewer dollars spent on goods and services next year, the projected increase in expenditures (the total budget) is $727,450.

She noted that recent data from the Assessment Office projects that the district's overall assessed property value will increase by $937 million.  That's an increase from $918 million from last year that she said will help offset PILOT losses, notably another $5 million loss in the value of the Cayuga Power Plant.  Heath is projecting a $19,600,572 property tax levy, an increase of $565,201 from last year.

Federal aid will be $30,000, $10,000 more than last year.  Heath is calculating that budget transfers and use of appropriated fund balance won't change in the upcoming budget.  She also calculated $57,000 in miscellaneous refunds, including BOCES refunds that represent services paid for and then not used, as the projected number of Lansing students in BOCES programs is balanced against the actual number.

While the final budget won't be solidified until next month, the school district has typically stayed within the tax cap since it was established eight years ago.  Staying below the cap has also made Lansing school taxpayers eligible for state refund checks.

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