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Tupper Lake school budget from A to Z

Hearing covers topics from active shooter to Zamboni

TUPPER LAKE — Tupper Lake Central School District Business Administrator Dan Bower presented the proposed 2019-20 budget to the public in a low-attendance hearing on Tuesday.

The budget includes funds for two school resource officers and a new Zamboni.

The public will vote on the budget on May 21, from noon to 8 p.m. at the middle-high school library.

The ballot will feature three things to vote on: the budget, an open school board seat and a vehicle proposition.

The budget features a designation for two school resource officers — police officers specifically at the school for protection — one each at L.P. Quinn Elementary and the middle-high school. Several North Country school districts have worked on the idea of hiring these SROs, but Tupper Lake is one of the few so far to go through with paying for them.

The district hopes to hire officers through the village police department.

A new priority was listed at the beginning of the budget presentation: safety. District Superintendent Seth McGowan said the board has wanted to set aside the money for SROs for several years now and finally had the budget to do so.

“In the past, this ‘notable changes’ slide (in the budget slideshow) … has been empty because we’ve really just simply done what we can do to get by,” McGowan said. “This year we were in a position that we could actually do something that we wanted to do.”

Budget

The $19,432,445 budget increases spending by 3.81% — $712,724 — but keeps the tax a few dollars below the state cap, which was determined by a formula to be set at a 2.105% rise this year. The vote on May 21 will be on the dollar amount of the budget, not the tax levy, which equals $8,617,707.

This $177,249 — 2.1% — rise in taxpayer funding prompted a question from Russ Cronin, a business owner who was one of four members of the public in attendance.

McGowan and Bower explained how the rest of the $712,724 budget increase is funded through state aid and appropriating $600,000 from the district’s fund balance. McGowan said the budget proposed is “sustainable,” and Cronin asked how that could be if the district was dipping into its reserves.

“If this budget is truly sustainable, yet we’re using $650,000 (sic) from our fund balance, are we able to use $650,000 for many years?” Cronin asked.

“No,” Bower said. “So, we appropriated $632,000 last year, we didn’t need to use that, fortunately.

“We’re allowed to have 4% of what they call ‘unappropriated fund balance’ in reserve, but we actually have a little more than that. So that’s why we feel we owe it to taxpayers to give some of that back.”

The district does not always use those appropriated funds but includes them in the budget for safety.

McGowan said state aid has been “unstable” in the past 10 years.

The budget is split into three parts: program, which is used for everything educational; administrative, which is used for the offices; and capital, which is a catch-all for all the things it takes to keep the campus running.

McGowan said the district uses a 3-2-1 formula, meaning that program should have three times the funding as capital, which should have three times the funding as administration.

This budget gives 71.27% to program, 20.76% to capital and 7.98% to administration.

Bower said the tax rate is only an estimate right now. It will be set in August, using the equalization rate set by the state; a property’s assessment value, set by the local assessor; and the tax levy, set by the school district.

He said as things stand right now, the rate would rise 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, to $13.81.

Vehicles

As it does every year, the board included a proposition for the purchase of two school buses. Bower said the cost of these buses is already built into the budget, but the proposition is needed to approve the unique payment method the district uses.

The district gets reimbursed for the bus purchases over five years at a rate of 46 cents on the dollar, so it makes the payments for the vehicles over the same time period, taking out bonds over five years.

This year, the district is also purchasing another vehicle, a Zamboni.

“The Zamboni will not transport students,” Bower said.

The Zamboni is used to lay down layers of smooth ice at the school district-owned Tupper Lake Civic Center. Bower said the current Zamboni was bought in 2004 after the center was renovated, and it’s getting old.

“We did have some service issues with it this year. We got it back up and running,” Bower said.

With board members hoping to host more tournaments at the rink, one of the requirements is to have a backup Zamboni. Cronin asked if the district would consider leasing the machine to the town of Tupper Lake for an outdoor rink somewhere, and McGowan said he’d prefer to do an in-kind trading of services if the town agrees.

Bower said Paul Smith’s College is looking to buy ice time at the rink next year, too.

The maximum prices for each bus is $115,000, and $120,000 for the Zamboni.

The total cost of all three vehicles is $395,317. The state will reimburse the district $120,394, leaving $274,923 to be paid by the district over five years, if the vehicles are purchased at the maximum prices.

Board election

A seat on the Board of Education is open as Shaleen Price leaves. Dave Dewyea is the only person running for the seat.