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Potsdam school board adopts budget with 2.9 percent tax levy increase

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POTSDAM — When voters in the Potsdam Central School district head to the polls next month, they will be voting on a budget that presents them with a 2.9 percent tax levy increase that falls under the district’s tax cap limit of 3.09 percent.

The $28,196,659 spending plan was adopted by the board Tuesday night. The spending plan also includes a tax levy of $12,188,521, a $344,152 increase over the current year’s levy, or amount to be raised by taxes.

“It’s always a major process for us to put together a spending plan,” Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said, adding the 2014-15 budget was finalized without cutting any positions or staffing.

“We strived from the beginning not to make any cuts this year and we have achieved that,” he said.

Mr. Brady said the 2014-15 spending plan even includes the restoration of some items that had been previously cut, including one elementary teacher, a guidance counselor, the district’s summer reading program, a math coach and a bus monitor.

Other additions include a part-time custodian for the former Building Blocks Day Care building and the conversion of five teacher’s aides to teaching assistants.

Board of Education member Frederick C. Stone Jr. said this year’s budget process has been the easiest one in recent memory.

“I think this has been the least contentious budget in six years,” he said.

Fellow board member Wade A. Davis agreed.

“I think there was a proper use of fund balance,” he said. “It helps keep the taxes down. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Mr. Brady said the proposal uses $2.1 million in fund balance and reserves, an increase of $491,000 from what was used in this year’s spending plan.

Should that money be spent, Mr. Brady said, the district would be left with $3,458,256 in fund balance and reserves at the close of the 2014-15 fiscal year.

While a final tax rate will not be calculated until this summer after the property tax rolls are finalized, Business Manager Laura Hart estimated the rate would increase by 66 cents, from $22.74 to $23.40. Ms. Hart also said the final tax rate often ends up being lower than projected, as was the case in three of the past four years.

Using the estimated rate, though, Ms. Hart said the owner of a $100,000 home with a basic STAR exemption would see the tax bill increase $52. The owner of that same home with an enhanced, or senior STAR, exemption would see an increase in the tax bill of $38.

The budget passed with eight yes votes. Ralph L. Fuller was not present.

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