School budget vote is today
Yes, there’s only 24 hours in a day. Yes, it always seems that no matter how early we wake up, or how long a day we work, that time never seems to be enough to accomplish all that we’ve laid out in our respective to-do lists. But it’s important to make time for one thing today: Voting on your school district’s budget.
Whether you’re a parent with a child in public school or not, if you own a home here or care about your local public school, this vote will impact you directly. How much your local school district spends directly correlates with taxes you will owe. Each school district has already held a public hearing on its proposed budget for the next school year, so if you missed that, this vote is your last opportunity to have your say in how your money is spent.
Don’t know what your local school district is planning to spend? Here’s a reminder, culled from budget documents and reporting by Staff Writers Lauren Yates and Aaron Marbone in the Enterprise.
The Saranac Lake Central School District is planning to spend exactly $36 million in the coming school year, a 4.05% increase in spending from the current school year. This meets the state tax cap.
More than three-quarters of the district’s spending, $27.4 million, is earmarked for salaries and benefits. (Superintendent Diane Fox is the highest-paid employee, with a proposed salary of $172,525 in 2023-24 with $33,073 in benefits, according to the district’s administrator salary disclosure form. In the current year, the superintendent is being paid $156,503 with $30,875 in benefits, according to this year’s ASD form.)
About 65% of the district’s proposed budget, or $23,650,279, would be paid for by taxpayers.
This translates to a tax rate of approximately $9.04 per $1,000 in assessed value. A homeowner can calculate their approximate tax bill with some simple math, as long as they know what their home is assessed at. Say you’ve got a home with an assessed value of $300,000. You would multiply the tax rate — $9.04 — by 300, to get your approximate tax bill of $2,712. Keep in mind that this is school taxes only, and doesn’t include other local taxes, such as village taxes, for those who live in the village of Saranac Lake.
With its $36 million budget proposal, Saranac Lake’s per-student spending calculates to roughly $33,739, provided there isn’t a big change in enrollment. As of the start of this school year, 1,067 students were enrolled at SLCSD. This spending per student is far from high, compared to some other school districts around New York state, but New York has the highest per-student spending in the country, around 90% higher than the national average. Did you know that there’s a school on New York’s Fire Island with fewer than 40 students that spends $165,041 per student, according to the U.S. Department of Education? (You would think that the state’s per-pupil spending would translate to a better quality public education system, but U.S. News and World Report ranks the quality of New York’s pre-K through 12 education — taking into account enrollment, test scores, graduation rates and college readiness — as eighth in the nation.)
There will be three propositions on the ballot. Proposition one is to authorize the purchase of three buses and two vehicles at a cost not to exceed $552,000. Proposition two would allow the district to receive up to an additional 10% in building aid on a debt neutral energy performance contract with the goal of improving energy efficiency at facilities the district owns. The audit would not be able to cost more than $2.5 million. Proposition three would authorize the school board to collect $409,506 in taxes to pay to the trustees of the Saranac Lake Free Library for general operating funds. This is a 15% increase from last year.
Also on the ballot will be three seats on the school board, for which three candidates are running uncontested: Joseph Henderson, Tori Thurston and Michael Martin. An article on the three candidates titled “Three incumbents unopposed in Saranac Lake school election” ran in the Enterprise on April 21 and can be read at https://bit.ly/3Hmevd1.
Voting takes place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Saranac Lake High School, inside door number five by the auditorium.
A $21.7 million spending plan has been proposed for the Lake Placid Central School District’s 2023-24 school year, 3.99% higher than the current school year. This budget, if passed, would stay within the state tax cap.
About 73% of the proposed budget, or around $16 million, would go to district employees’ salaries and benefits. Most positions are expected to receive a salary bump between 3 to 5%. (According to seethroughny.net, Superintendent Timothy Seymour was paid $128,153 as of 2022.)
Taxpayers would contribute more than $17.1 million to the school budget, nearly 79% of the district’s costs. The tax rate is estimated to be around $6.32 per $1,000 in assessed value.
The district is also planning to pull $1 million from its reserves, paired with $3.5 million in state and federal aid, to pay for its expenses.
The district is expected to save around $80,000 in next year’s budget with the elimination of the middle school principal position, which the district isn’t planning to fill. However, the board is proposing to increase the pay of the new combined middle-high school principal position, filled by former middle school principal Theresa Lindsay. The school board is proposing to give Lindsay a pay bump in the 2023-24 budget for her extra duties, increasing her current salary from $109,519 to $117,799.
Lake Placid’s per-student spending calculates to around $40,636, provided its 534 enrollment number at the start of this school year – not including 29 universal pre-K students — doesn’t change.
Four people are running for three open seats on the Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education: Nathan Hammaker, John Hopkinson, Douglas Lansing and Ryan St. Louis. An article on the three candidates titled “Four vie for three Lake Placid school board seats” ran in the Enterprise on April 21 and can be read at https://tinyurl.com/5dmhpmty.
There will be two propositions on the ballot, asking voters if the district should increase funding for the E.M. Cooper Memorial Library in Wilmington and lease two buses for the 2023-24 school year — one 24-passenger school wheelchair bus and one eight-passenger school bus. District voters will also have an opportunity to take an exit poll after voting, which will ask whether or not voters believe the district should enact state-ordained property tax exemptions for district veterans and emergency service workers.
Residents in Lake Placid can vote in the Lake Placid Elementary School cafeteria from 2 to 9 p.m. Wilmington residents can vote at the Wilmington Community Center from 2 to 9 p.m.
Tupper Lake Central School District’s proposed $22.3 million spending plan, 1.3% lower than the current year, would fall below the state tax cap.
More than 42% of the budget, or $9.5 million, would be paid for by taxpayers. This is a higher amount than the current year because although expenses will decrease — the district is planning to do that through attrition and possible staff cuts — the district is expecting to recieve less federal aid. The district is also planning to use $350,000 from its nearly $1 million in reserves to pay for its expenses.
Employee salaries for teachers, staff and administrators make up more than $8 million, or around 37%, of the budget. Benefits make up around $6.7 million, or around 30% of the budget, according to budget documents. Tupper Lake Superintendent Russ Bartlett will be paid roughly $143,000, with $40,040 in benefits, if the budget is adopted as-is.
Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES Assistant Superintendent for District Finance and Operations Dan Bower declined to share the approximate tax rate when asked by the Enterprise; he said there are several state and county property assessment figures that won’t be released until August so the district can’t really calculate a proposed tax rate.
Tupper Lake’s per-student spending in the 2023-24 school year would calculate to roughly $29,608, provided enrollment doesn’t change from the district’s 756 students as of the start of this school year.
There are two open seats on the TLCSD Board of Education, but only one candidate will be on the ballot.
Sabrina Sabre Shipman is the sole candidate on the ballot.
An Enterprise article on this titled “One candidate, two open seats in Tupper Lake” was published on April 21 and can be read at https://bit.ly/3HJqCRt.
There is a proposition on the ballot that if approved would allow the district to purchase two new buses. It allows the district to borrow $334,000 for the vehicles and pay off its debt over five years. The debt for these bonds is included in the proposed budget.
Voters can cast their ballots at the middle-high school library from noon to 8 p.m.
The Keene Central School District is proposing to spend $7,870,480 in the 2023-24 school year, a 2.4% increase from this year’s budget of $7,680,182.
About 83% of its expenses next year would be covered by $6,570,143 in taxes collected from district taxpayers. The district would also use about $400,000 from its reserves and more than $817,000 in state and federal aid to balance its budget.
About 71% of the budget, or $5,626,309, are employee salaries and benefits. Superintendent Dan Mayberry is expected to be paid roughly $134,875 with $51,250 in benefits, according to budget documents.
The increase in taxes, an around 6.8% hike from the $6,570,143 in taxes collected through this year’s budget, exceeds the state’s 1.2% tax cap set for the district. In a letter to the community, Mayberry wrote that he believes the district needs to “shift away from using fund balance (savings) to balance expenses and revenues in district budgets, as this model is not sustainable.”
District property owners in Keene would have a tax rate of $11.95 per $1,000 in assessed value under the proposed budget, while district property owners in the town of Jay would have a tax rate of around $9.42 per $1,000 in assessed value, according to budget documents. These rates could change after Essex County releases updated tax rolls later this year.
Because the proposed tax levy exceeds the state tax cap for the district, the budget will require a supermajority vote of 60% or more to pass.
Keene’s per-student spending would be roughly $34,643 based on its latest enrollment figure of 156.
Eugene Chin, incumbent Lauren Crowl and Janelle Schwartz are running for two board of education vacancies.
There will be a proposition on the ballot, asking voters whether or not the district should create a $1 million capital reserve to purchase equipment — like buses — and make capital improvements to the building and grounds.
Voters can cast their ballots from noon to 8 p.m. at the school.
The AuSable Valley Central School District is proposing to spend $36,506,950 in the 2023-24 school year, a 4.3% increase from this year’s $34,977,108 budget.
Like the other districts, the majority of expenses outlined in the budget are employee salaries and benefits. (Superintendent Michael Francia’s salary was $137,000 as of last year.)
The district expects to cover more than half of these costs with about $19.3 million in federal and state aid, while the rest of the budget would largely be covered by district taxes and $1,025,000 from the district’s reserves. The district is also anticipating some miscellaneous revenues next year from a BOCES refund, interest on investments and taxes, and the use of district facilities.
The district is proposing to levy — or collect — $15,645,000 in taxes from district property owners in 2023-24. The 2.97% increase in taxes from last year’s tax levy of $15,193,500 is below the district’s 3.09% tax cap assigned by the state this year.
The district’s per-student spending would be around $32,479, based on its 1,124 enrollment as of the start of this school year.
Amanda Whisher is running unopposed for a three-year term on the school board.
Voters can cast their ballots from noon to 9 p.m. in the middle-high school cafeteria.