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Riverhead school district looks to stay within tax levy cap at 3.77%

02/23/2017 5:55 AM |

Carney_Nancy

Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney has unveiled a portion of her preliminary spending plan, which carries an estimated 3.77 percent increase to next year’s tax levy.

During last Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, Ms. Carney said the district is allowed to raise the tax levy by that amount without piercing the state-mandated tax levy cap.

The state law, which took effect for the 2012-13 fiscal year, requires school districts and municipalities to limit increases in the amount of money they raise through property taxes to either 2 percent or the rate of inflation determined by the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently announced a 1.26 percent cap on tax levy increases for the 2017-18 fiscal year; however, school districts are allowed to exceed the state’s tax cap law without obtaining a supermajority voter approval because some expenses, such as pensions and capital costs, are exempt.

“Our financial and operational goals are to develop a budget that can maintain and support district programs and resources,” Ms. Carney said. “We’ve also been very vigilant in monitoring legislation and regulations that are coming out and the impact these may have on the tax levy cap.”

Of the three spending categories discussed at the meeting — general support, benefits and debt service — the latter accounts for the largest increase in the budget, rising by 26 percent for a total of $9.3 million, according to the superintendent’s presentation.

Debt service encompasses money due on past projects, including capital work approved by voters in 1999 and 2011, the turf field, annual bus purchases, and repayment of funds borrowed under the Energy Performance Contract, Ms. Carney said.

The district’s debt for the turf field, which was completed this past fall, and a new transportation center in Calverton will be nearly $1.08 million, which is a 38 percent increase over the current year, she said.

Construction bond debt is expected to be $7.2 million, which is a 29 percent hike, she said.

“We should be finishing up with our change orders and closing out in the next month or so on all of the original 2011 bond,” the superintendent said. “We’re very pleased with how it came out.”

Ms. Carney said benefit payments are expected to increase by 4.31 percent, or $1.2 million, next school year, with increases in health insurance waivers and social security costs, as well as reductions in workers compensation, unemployment and retirement system payments. General support — which covers the Board of Education, central administration, auditing, data processing, district insurance and BOCES administration — is expected to increase by less than a percent, she said.

Different elements of the tentative budget — including transportation, special education and regular school day expenses — will be discussed at school board meetings in March. The board is scheduled to adopt the spending plan April 19 and the budget vote is set for May 16 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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File photo: Riverhead school district superintendent Nancy Carney. (Credit: News-Review)

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