North Colonie budget plans come in under cap

District to dip slightly into reserves but plans to maintain programs, staffing

— “Mr. Corr mentioned last year at this time we were forecasting a $1 million loss,” said Steven Zautner, the district business manager. “We did have a couple pieces of very good news. Keep in mind … we’re about two-thirds of the way through our fiscal year. Really, six months after the meeting tonight we’ll know what the real number is. As of today this is what we are forecasting.”

Corr stressed the importance of maintaining the district’s reserves in case of an emergency because of some hardships that have fallen on its neighbor, the Niskayuna school district. That district underwent a costly expansion that ended up going over budget. As a result, the district has had to make cuts to staffing and programs.

When the state budget was first announced, Corr railed against the continuation of the GEA.

“The vast majority of schools in the state are receiving less now than they were four or five years ago — substantially less, and that compounded with the tax cap limit that has also restricted their ability to raise revenues,” Corr said at the time.

Under the state tax cap, the yearly increase in property taxes each year for school districts and local municipalities is 2 percent, or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. Schools can exceed the cap by a supermajority vote, but then homeowners of the district will be penalized by not receiving promised tax breaks from the state.

The North Colonie School District’s 2014-15 proposed budget does not exceed the tax cap, with a tax levy of just 3.6 percent, which is a slight decrease from last year ‘s levy of 4.3 percent.

Decreasing enrollment is another way the district plans to keep costs under control. Enrollment is projected to steadily decrease over the next five years. The enrollment for this year is 5,346, which is projected to drop to 5,216 by 2017.

There are budget meetings regularly scheduled until the board votes the budget March 31. A list of times and locations of the meetings can be found at northcolonie.org

“Despite the grim statistics, we have to keep moving forward and we have to keep getting better,” said Corr. “It should be an equitable experience for all students. The stakes are high and the future of our students rides on a quality education.”

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