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Heuvelton Central School adopts $12.5 million budget

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HEUVELTON — The Heuvelton Central School Board of Education adopted a $12.5 million budget for the 2013-14 school year at Wednesday’s meeting.

The budget is a $460,689 increase over last year’s and includes a 3.35-percent increase in the district’s property tax levy, or amount to be raised by taxes.

Heuvelton’s tax levy in 2013-14 will be $3,055,539.

The property tax increase was a point of contention during Wednesday night’s deliberations, with board member Thomas A. Nichols advocating applying more fund balance in order to hold the tax levy increase at 3 percent.

“I think that we can achieve a 3 percent [tax levy increase] … and make sure we provide stability for our educational future and at the same time show to the taxpayers that we’re trying to recognize their needs, too,” Mr. Nichols said.

But board Vice President Dr. John P. “Jack” Zeh said raising the levy by too little could send the wrong signals to Albany.

He suggested the board adopt a 3.75-percent tax levy increase, raising $3,067,324.

“Having higher taxes shows to the government that we are making more of a community effort and it will drive more state aid,” Dr. Zeh said.

He also noted the tax levy can grow without necessarily affecting the tax rate because of growth within the district.

Dr. Zeh said the property tax rate in Heuvelton has essentially stayed the same for the past 10 years, hovering at about $20 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Mr. Nichols made a motion to adopt the budget with a 3-percent tax levy increase, raising $3,045,161, but failed to garner enough support for the measure.

Board member Dennis G. Durant said, “The school has built up a fiscally responsible foundation. I’ve got to go with 3.75” percent.

Board member Keith Carmany agreed with Mr. Durant.

“It’s a looking-toward-the-future decision,” he said.

But before the motion failed completely, board member Michelle McGaw proposed a compromise, asking, “Can’t we meet in the middle?”

Mr. Nichols revised his motion to a 3.35 percent increase, with the backing of Dr. Zeh, and the motion was passed unanimously.

This budget represents the lowest tax levy increase in Heuvelton since the 2009-10 school year.

The budget also includes $973,051 from the fund balance. Superintendent Susan E. Todd said the school so far has not had to touch the $932,879 in fund balance it set aside for the 2012-13 school year and hopes to be able to carry it over to next year’s budget. The 2013-14 budget also assumes $7,191,067 in state aid and $231,654 in gap elimination adjustment restoration.

The final state aid package is expected to be finalized by the end of the week.

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