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Salmon River looks at 2 percent tax increase for 2013-14

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FORT COVINGTON - The Salmon River Central School District is looking at raising school taxes by 2 percent for 2013-14, school business executive Natascha Jock told the board of education on Monday night, but current figures are preliminary and final budget decisions won’t be made until next month.

She noted that so far, it looks like the district will not make any staffing cuts under the 2013-14 spending blueprint.

Ms. Jock said she will present a complete tentative budget to the board at their April 16 meeting.

The new tax rate per thousand dollars of assessed property value has yet to be calculated, but Ms. Jock did say the district would raise an additional $38,253 from a 2 percent hike.

Faced with the increasing cost of retirement and health insurance benefits, Ms. Jock said the district will use a yet-to-be-determined amount of the fund balance to offset the tax increase. She said if the district chose not to use any of the fund balance, they would be left with no choice but to raise taxes by 40.73 percent.

According to Ms. Jock, the fund balance could run dry by the 2015-16 school year.

“That’s a worst-case scenario of no change in state aid formula and retirement and health insurance increases,” she said.

Superintendent of Schools Jane Collins said she is hopeful that lawmakers in Albany will pass legislation locking districts into a yearly retirement contribution; Ms. Jock said the percentage could be as high as 14 percent. Currently, the district pays 16.5 percent of a retired teacher’s salary. They pay 20.8 percent on a retired employee’s salary, which includes bus drivers, custodial staff and food services.

Kevin Walbridge, elementary school principal and a member of the school’s athletic committee, told the board, “We’re going to have to talk about cuts” to spring and modified sports because of the current fiscal situation. Ms. Collins and board member Emily Lauzon countered by suggesting the district raise taxes by an additional 1 percent.

“You’re going to cut teachers but add coaches?” Mr. Walbridge said, referring to past staffing cuts that have not been restored. “You’ve got to find a balance.”

Mr. Walbridge, along with St. Regis Mohawk School principal Sharlee Thomas each said they would like to see the elementary summer school program stay off the budget chopping block. Each said summer school is a necessity in light of common core standards and what many teachers see as tougher mandatory state exams.

“We definitely want to have [summer school] included in the budget,” Mr. Walbridge said, adding that between 75 and 100 students attend elementary summer school each year.

Ms. Jock said preliminary estimates show the district will receive the following for the 2013-14 school year:

■ $547,351 in overall state aid increases

■ $99,000 in building aid from the wastewater treatment plant

■ $521,000 in Native American aid

■ $100,000 insurance payment from the ethanol remediation project

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