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Lisbon debates 4 and 5 percent tax levy increases

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LISBON — At Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, members debated the benefits of higher and lower tax levies but decided to hold off on a decision, hoping the state will deliver more aid to the district.

The state’s final budget for 2013-14 is due April 1. The Lisbon Central School District is looking at a $12.2 million proposed budget.

The board is considering a 4-percent increase in the tax levy, raising $3,121,927, or a 5.08 percent increase that would raise $3,154,494.

The 4 percent increase would result in a $173,164 shortfall, while the 5.08 percent increase would result in a $140,597 shortfall.

“One of the board’s goals is to keep a consistent tax rate,” Superintendent Erin E. Woods said.

She said the district isn’t receiving enough state aid. The amount is projected to be $6.3 million this year, an increase of $127,056 over last year.

But Ms. Woods said operating costs, including pensions, are increasing faster than revenue streams. In an effort to save money, the district this year will not fill two positions vacated due to retirements.

“We can’t continue to cut programs, cut staff and have a negative impact on our students,” Ms. Woods said. “We have to have a good balance.”

Advocating a 5.08 percent increase, Ms. Woods said taxpayers “would feel it, but it’s not horrible. ... The smaller the shortfall, the better in terms of staff and students.”

Board Vice President Larry Doyle said, “I don’t want to have to pay any more taxes than I absolutely have to, but $140,000 is easier to come up with than $173,000. What are we going to do if we have to start cutting more people?”

But support for increasing the levy by 5.08 percent faltered when board President Blake P. Gendebien said, “The 4 percent is important to me.”

Mr. Gendebien said the board has traditionally kept the tax levy increase under 4 percent a year and said he wants to do everything to keep it there for the 2013-14 school year.

Business Manager Wendy S. White said she would keep studying the budget for options. Ms. Woods said the school also will look into raising the levy by 4.5 percent.

Board member Scott Walker said, “If it’s just under 5 (percent) it might be easier to pass (the budget).”

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