TUPPER LAKE - School officials still have some work to do on their proposed budget, but they said Monday night they expect it to come in under the state-imposed tax cap.
Tupper Lake Central School District Superintendent Seth McGowan said at a Monday night school board meeting that he's projecting total spending in the 2012-13 budget to come in around $16.01 million, a 0.12 percent increase over the current year.
"This is very preliminary, but it's close," McGowan said.
He expects the tax levy, or the amount to be raised in property taxes, to increase by about 3.35 percent to $7.31 million.
After doing the relevant calculations, the school district's tax levy increase is capped at a 3.42 percent increase. The cap starts at a baseline of 2 percent but has certain allowances that must be added and subtracted before reaching an entity's actual cap.
The means a 3.35 percent increase is under what the state would allow the school district.
"So that's actually very good news for us," McGowan said.
School board members said the news was a relief after several years of severe cuts, including a budget that called for the elimination of a quarter of the district's instructional positions two years ago.
"We seem to be in much better shape," said board member Dawn Hughes.
She noted that other districts are just now facing hard times, while Tupper Lake already dealt with them over the last few years.
McGowan credited increases in state aid for the improvement. The total amount of money the district expects to get from the state in the coming school year is $7.56 million. When the state Legislature passed its official budget last week, officials found out the district will get $44,257 more than originally planned for in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget.
Though some of the aid numbers went down, like help with buying textbooks, McGowan said it's significant that the state unfroze its "foundation aid." That's the main source of school funding from the state, and it hasn't increased in three years. But McGowan said this could be a sign that the state is starting to rethink the way it distributes money to schools.
"Way to go, Albany," McGowan said.
He also noted that the state added some money back in from its "gap elimination adjustment," in the form of a "gap elimination adjustment restoration" that helped out.
Despite the relatively low tax levy increase, McGowan said there will be room in the budget for the restoration of several program options that have been cut over the last few years.
McGowan said the district plans to restore a music teacher position at the L.P. Quinn Elementary School. Though officials had discussed hiring that position through BOCES to save money, McGowan told the school board Monday that he's looking to hire through the district instead, since a BOCES teacher would have to be shared with another district.
The district also plans to restore a library/research position at the elementary school. McGowan said he's looking at whether that position should be through BOCES or not.
He also plans to restore a home and career skills position by hiring a new science teacher and adding to classroom support at the L.P. Quinn.
The board plans to establish the budget at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 17. Then there will be a public budget hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, May 7.
The public will have a chance to vote on the budget Tuesday, May 15.