Included are responses to some commonly asked questions regarding the Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District budget and ballot propositions (2023).
What are the highlights of this year’s budget? In 2007, New York State created Foundation Aid as a way of determining the amount of school aid given to districts each year. Unfortunately, the formula was never followed and several districts across the state, including Phelps-Clifton Springs CSD, were underfunded year after year. For the first time since the creation of this formula, our District is getting its full allocation of Foundation Aid. The District plans to use these funds to address key areas of the budget while ensuring a high-quality educational plan for all students.
How will the proposed budget affect property owners? The $44,472,644 budget proposal calls for a 2% increase in the real property tax levy. Based on $100,000 assessed value and overall assessments and equalization rates from the 2022-2023 school year, residents can expect to see an average increase of $53.27 with no STAR exemption, $36.66 more if they qualify for the STAR exemption, or $16.62 more if they qualify for the enhanced STAR exemption. Keep in mind that the equalization rates and overall assessments across the seven municipalities have not yet been released for 2023-2024.
What expenditures are increasing the most? During the 2022-2023 school year, healthcare under the Finger Lakes Area School Health Plan (FLASHP) went up 21.9%. For the 2023-2024 school year, health care is increasing another 12% or $297,092. This represents nearly a 36.5% increase over the past two years. Our debt service as a result of capital projects has increased by $1,018,513. We have also seen a significant increase in special education services to address increased student needs through Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES in the amount of $989,370.
Why is the District paying for more buses? The District works to ensure the safety of students and staff by using a ten-year rotation to purchase new buses as it phases out aging models. In order to continue this cycle, the District will spend up to $824,130 out of its Bus Purchase Reserve Fund to purchase five buses, specifically four 70-passenger, and one 60-passenger wheelchair-accessible bus. The state provides 90% aid reimbursement over five years for the purchase of buses. The net cost to the District after state aid will be $82,413 out of the reserve fund.
Why is the District not investing in electric buses? One of the key factors in this decision is that there are still many challenges with adopting electric buses, namely: supply chain issues with electric buses and charging stations, demand on the power grid, new fire suppression systems, and increased costs of buses and insurance. In addition, as part of the current Capital Project, the District installed a fueling station to help with purchasing diesel at state contract pricing.
How is the tax levy limit for the District calculated? State law mandates that an eight-step formula be used to calculate the District’s tax levy limit. This calculation accounts for growth in the local tax base, the rate of inflation, and provides the District with certain exemptions (capital expenditures, retirement contributions, court orders, and judgments). The District may also carry over the unused portion of the tax levy limit from previous years. However, it can be no greater than 1.5% of the prior year’s tax levy limit. The District has $232,280 in carryover from 2022-2023, resulting in a tax levy limit for the upcoming school year of $15,855,789 for a 4.56% annual increase.
For 2023-2024, the District is proposing a school tax levy of $15,468,237 representing a 2% increase over the previous year.
Why is funding for the libraries on the ballot? The District holds the annual appropriations vote for the local libraries in conjunction with the District annual budget vote for efficiency purposes. The funding for the libraries has no impact on the school budget or taxes. Taxes related to library funding are levied separately from District taxes.
Why create a 2023 Capital Reserve Fund? In 2019, the District planned the 2020 Capital Construction Project and laid out the foundation for the future project. This future project was estimated at $21.5 million and required $4 million in reserves to avoid a tax increase to the local community. The 2020 Capital Reserve is currently fully funded at $4 million but due to inflation over the last few years, the estimated cost of the next project has increased significantly along with the amount required in reserves. The 2023 Capital Reserve will have a 10-year lifespan with a maximum funding allocation of $8 million. This will allow the District to grow this reserve and have the flexibility to use the funds for future projects.
What happens if the budget isn’t approved? The District has two options if the budget is defeated. It can propose a new budget or the same budget for a re-vote in June. If that budget proposal is defeated, then the District would be required to adopt a contingency budget. Since the District is proposing a 2% levy increase, there would be a change to the tax levy in a contingency budget, specifically a reduction of $303,299. In addition, there would be restrictions on purchasing non-contingent items and would require the District to charge fees for all facility uses.