Jefferson County schools prepare for Tuesday’s budget votes | Education
WATERTOWN — It’s that time of year — school district voters will be asked to approve the 2022-23 budgets and various related proposals.
Voting will take place on Tuesday in each of the school districts in Jefferson County. Registered voters must be US citizens, at least 18 years old, and have resided in the school district in which they are voting for at least 30 days prior to voting.
The Indian River Central School District, one of the largest districts in the county, is asking voters to approve a budget of $92,039,519, a 2.12% increase from this year’s adjusted budget. The tax levy is $2,615,900, an increase of just under 1.25% over last year, which is below the tax cap of 2.3%. Tax bills are expected to rise only slightly as assessments in the district have risen, so the levy is now spread across a wider population.
According to Indian River Chief Commercial Officer Audrey Stevenson, the district entered this year with a strong fund balance, $46 million.
“What we will do over the next few months is we will finalize what we will end the year with as a fund balance,” she said. “We expect this to grow a bit, but one of the ways we will use some of our unused credits will be to create two new reserve funds. We already have two financial reserves for capital projects, and we are asking voters to create another capital reserve so that we start saving for what is planned, the needs for electric buses and the infrastructure that goes with it.
In addition, the school board has created a $2 million repair reserve for major items that do not have an annual or shorter maintenance cycle. The proposed budget takes into account increases in fuel and utility costs, Ms. Stevenson said, with the district unsure whether the trend of recent months will continue into next year.
The vote on the Indian River budget will take place in the high school‘s large group teaching room from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Even in meeting the urgent needs resulting from the pandemic, many long-planned and much-needed improvements to our facilities have been completed or are underway at a level and pace never before seen in Indian River,” the superintendent said. Troy W. Decker. “These include, but are certainly not limited to high-efficiency geothermal systems, new flooring and roofing, physical facility upgrades, improved security and communication systems, and more.”
The Watertown City School District also increased its budget for the 2022-2023 school year, by just over $4.5 million, with a tax levy increase of 0.69%. The previous budget provided for an increase in tax levies of 1.8%.
“Our tax levy only increases by 0.69% because with the increase in aid to foundations, we have been able to balance the budget without having to vote by supermajority on the increase in taxes,” said the WCSD Business Manager, Joshua W. Hartshorne. “We could have gone up to 2% and kind of kept it pretty stable over the last few years, but given the increase in foundation aid, we were able to keep that low.”
In April, the school board adopted an expenditure budget of $82,983,069 for the 2022-2023 school year. Budget highlights include the continuation and expansion of current programs and staff to help students meet or exceed New York City graduation requirements; the addition of two psychologists, an additional home school coordinator, an RTI/Math teacher, an English teacher, a librarian, and a school counselor; and continued investments in physical and IT infrastructure, including a capital project at Knickerbocker Elementary to remove risers and replace flooring in the library, as well as replace playground equipment.
“I think for me, one of the things I’m proud of is that we’re going to be able to continue and grow some of our current programs and staff to help students meet or exceed the graduation requirements of New York State,” said Superintendent Patricia B. LaBarr. “These things that we do are all really student-centered and that’s exciting.”
If the proposed budget is rejected, the school board will have to reduce the overall tax levy by $116,841. This reduction would impact many non-mandated areas, such as having additional elementary school aides and an additional school resource officer. The cut would also mean foregoing technology and infrastructure upgrades. If a contingent budget is actually passed due to a budget defeat, it is mandated to have a 0% or less tax increase in the year 2021-22. The board has yet to determine what items would be included in an eventual budget.
The district budget vote will take place from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday. Voters residing in the North Electoral District — defined the part of the city north of the Black River and the towns of LeRay and Pamelia within the district boundaries — will vote at the North Elementary School Gymnasium. Voters residing in the Southern Electoral District – defined as the part of the city south of the Black River and the towns of Rutland and Watertown – will vote in the choir hall at Watertown High School.
Other School Districts in Jefferson County:
Alexandria: Residents will vote on a proposed budget of $15,030,670, a change of 5.62% from last year. The district has proposed a tax levy increase of 3.9%. Voters will also consider an additional proposal to bond student transportation vehicles as part of the district’s routine fleet replacement. If the proposal is approved, the district will borrow up to $315,000 to purchase two 66-passenger buses and a school vehicle.
Belleville: The proposed budget increases by 2.59% to $11,668,784 and the royalty will increase by 3%. The proposed budget includes a $100,000 capital expenditure project for school building security upgrades; $12,000 for teachers’ supplies to ease the burden on families; and two new school buses.
Carthage: Proposed budget of $67,082,204 reflects a 0% increase in tax levies. The proposed budget uses $6.6 million of unrestricted fund balance to allow the district to keep the tax levy flat for the fifth straight year. There will also be a proposal for financial support for the local public librarian.
General Brown: The proposed total budget for the district is $25,994,591, an increase of $244,286. The tax levy is $8,844,096, an increase of 2.85%.
LaFargeville: The proposed budget includes a 1.17% increase in spending over last year, for a total budget of $12,038,948. There is an increase in the tax levy of 2.92%, which corresponds to the tax ceiling.
Lyme: The proposed budget uses $588,000 of unrestricted fund balance, or savings, to allow the district to ease the burden on taxpayers with a 1.11% tax increase for district residents. The proposed budget is $8,972,391. Voters will also be asked to approve $86,141 for the Lyme Free Library.
Sackets Harbour: Residents will vote on a proposed spending plan of $9,674,424, an increase of $236,189 from last year. The increase is mainly due to contractual agreements. If approved, the budget would increase the tax levy by 1.10%.
Voters will also decide on a proposal to purchase a 66-passenger school bus costing no more than $130,886.
South Jefferson: The proposed budget is $39,083,979, an increase of 4.95% over last year. The proposed tax levy is 2%, below the 2.02% tax cap based on the state tax cap formula.
There will also be two proposals for voters – authorization to purchase six replacement student transport vehicles, including necessary furniture, fixtures and equipment and all other costs for a total amount not to exceed 659 $000; and the creation of a $5 million capital reserve fund.
Thousand Islands: The proposed budget for the upcoming school year remains unchanged from last year’s budget of $22,922,490. There is a 0% tax levy change.