LOWVILLE — A Lewis County school district will seek a 60% super majority of voters to approve its 2022-23 budget today at the polls.
Copenhagen Central School District’s tax cap was calculated at minus 3.07%, which would have meant a loss of revenue of $54,800 and would have impacted school programming if an appropriate budget could have reduced the spending as much.
Each district calculates its own tax cap based on a state-provided formula that allows for various inclusions and exclusions that can either work in favor of a district — such as Lowville, which calculated a tax cap of 12.96 % – or work against a district as it did for Copenhagen. Changes in payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOT amounts, from wind farms were primarily responsible for deviations from the typical 2% tax cap.
The actual tax rates property owners will pay in each district are confirmed in August when state assessments are finalized, but in most cases they will be negligible, largely due to increased property values and new construction.
Schools spend between 64% and 71% on programming in their budgets.
Lewis County’s five school districts have included funds for a mini renovation project costing up to $100,000. 82% of these are repaid by state aid the following year as part of a program to help schools cope with costly building repairs and upgrades.
COPENHAGEN CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
The 1% increase in the total amount of taxes the district plans to collect from property owners, called the tax levy, to cover a 2.66% increase in expenses totaling $310,601, was enough to exceed the tax cap.
A total of $12 million is budgeted for the fiscal year beginning at the end of June, compared to $11.7 million this year. Approximately $766,529 of the existing fund balance will be used to offset cost increases. The low tax cap calculation was largely due to the $177,204 increase in PILOT agreements with Copenhagen and Number Three Wind Farms, Superintendent Scott N. Connell told District Taxpayers in the budget bulletin.
State and federal aid funds 73.95% of the budget, while taxpayers cover about 15.1% of the costs.
The district expects enrollment to be 480 students next year, bringing spending per student to $24,969.
The ballot also includes a measure to provide transportation on regular bus routes for Head Start preschool students.
The vote in Copenhagen will take place between noon and 8 p.m. in the foyer of the school gymnasium.
BEAVER RIVER CENTRAL SCHOOL
Spending for next year will increase 4.9% to $19,135,155 from $18,241,189, but the district will remain under its 3.72% tax cap with a 2% increase in tax levy.
The largest increase in spending this year – a 6.57% increase, or $822,310 – will pay for a number of new positions and programs that provide additional academic support like summer school, after-school programming and professional development as well as additional social and emotional support. for students, Superintendent Todd G. Green told voters in his budget letter.
In a change from previous years, funds to buy new buses were included in the budget instead of buying with an obligation to eliminate financial costs.
Next year, 66.45% of the district’s budget will come from state aid and 32.6% from property taxes.
Spending per student next year will be approximately $23,800 based on an enrollment of 804 students.
A proposal to increase funding for the Croghan Free Library from $45,000 to $50,000 will also be included on the ballot.
Voting will take place in the school auditorium between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.
SOUTH LEWIS CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
The proposed budget includes a 1.95% tax increase, up from a 1.8% increase last year, but still below the 3.83% tax cap.
The $9.28 million drawdown will go toward planned spending of $28.5 million for next year — an increase from last year’s $28 million — which includes $275,280 more in spending administrative and $415,986 more in program expenses than this school year.
About 63.7% of the budget is financed by state aid and 32.5% covered by taxpayers.
The district projects that 975 students will be enrolled next year, bringing the amount spent per student to $29,423.
Other measures on the ballot include purchasing three school buses for a total of $380,528 and creating a capital reserve fund over the next 10 years using funds left over at the end of each fiscal year. The fund will be used to “offset all local ratepayer costs for any future capital projects,” according to the budget bulletin.
Voting will be open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the school’s music room.
LOWVILLE ACADEMY AND CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
The tax levy will increase by 4.98%, but Superintendent Rebecca Dunckel-King said in her budget letter that the increase in property values ”will help offset a good portion of our tax rate.”
The levy is well below the calculated tax cap, which increased mainly due to the 21% drop in wind farm payments.
$800,000 of the district fund balance will be used to offset this loss of revenue and stabilize the tax levy.
Next year’s budget of $28.8 million is 2.46% higher than this year’s budget of $28.1 million.
The additional expenses are “largely due to increases in wages, benefits and energy costs,” the superintendent said.
State aid covers 71% of Lowville District’s costs, while property taxes and PILOT money make up 21.11% combined.
According to state data, enrollment in the district last recorded at 1,190 students, bringing next year’s spending to about $24,202 per student.
The ballot also includes proposals to approve the purchase of three school buses for $370,000; to authorize the district to provide transportation for preschool children in Head Start on regular bus routes; and to raise tax dollars for the two public libraries serving the area – $20,000 for the Lowville Free Library to bring its total levy to $100,000, and another $5,000 for the William H. Bush Memorial Library in Martinsburg for a total of $40,000.
Voting will take place in the school auditorium from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
HARRISVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Spending in the Harrisville District will decline 2.78% – $323,273 – to $11,321,461 in the next school year. The tax levy will increase by 1.8%
According to Superintendent Robert N. Finster’s letter to ratepayers, “Most of this decrease can be attributed to one-time U.S. bailout funds from last year, which are now accounted for in the District’s federal fund but are not reflected in the 2022-23 budget.”
The budget is 55.2% funded by state aid, a decrease of $274,008 compared to this year.
District spending next year will be approximately $34,835 per student based on the state’s last enrollment of 325 students.
The ballot also includes proposals to purchase two buses for $253,608 and an increase in funding for the Harrisville Free Library by $5,000, which will bring the library’s budget to $65,000.
Voting in Harrisville will take place from 1 to 8 p.m. in the school library at 14371 Pirates Lane.
Three of the districts – Lowville, Beaver River and South Lewis – also contested school board races on their ballots. Go to wdt.me/LewisCountySchoolBoards for information on each candidate.