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September 24, 2017
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Stillwater News

2016-2017 Budget Questions and Answers

May 5, 2016 

What is the budget proposal for next year?

On Tuesday, May 17, Stillwater Central School District residents will vote on a proposed $23,989,459 budget for the 2016-17 school year. This proposal preserves all of the district’s existing programs.

If voters approve the spending plan, the projected tax levy—the total amount of money a school district can raise through property taxes—would increase by 4.81 percent. This increase is below Stillwater’s maximum allowable tax levy increase as determined by the state’s tax levy cap formula.

Spending under the proposal would increase by 1.17 percent over the current-year budget. District officials estimate that the school tax rates, which are the amount of tax residents pay per $1,000 of assessed property value, will increase by 2 percent or less due to growth in the district’s overall property assessments. Final school tax rates are set in August.

What's different in the proposed budget?

The 2016-17 budget proposal increases spending by $277,038, or 1.17 percent, over the current budget. Much of that increase is driven by rising costs associated with employee pensions and benefits, as well as state and federal mandated programs and services, such as special education and the transition to the Common Core Learning Standards.

The proposed budget also includes increasing an existing part-time business teacher position to full time. This teacher will work with special education students and focus on career development.

How would the proposed budget affect my taxes?

While the tax levy would go up by $449,988 next year, total property assessments within the district are also growing, meaning there are more properties across which to distribute the tax levy. Some of the increase in tax revenues will be generated from this assessment growth.

Actual tax rates are set in August. These rates are based on final property assessments (provided by each town) and equalization rates for each town, which are provided by the state Office of Real Property Services. However, the school district has estimated the tax rates for each of the four towns within the district based on the information known at this time. The chart above shows the estimated tax rate that a property owner would pay per $1,000 of assessed value. The chart reflects the anticipated growth in property assessments and thus shows that tax rates may increase by less than 2 percent for some towns. Please note these are only estimates and may differ from the final tax rates set in August.

  Town
2014 Rate 
Per $1,000 Assessed Value
2015 Rate 
Per $1,000 Assessed Value
*2016 Rate 
Per $1,000 Assessed Value

 Stillwater

$13.29

$13.43

$13.70

 Saratoga

$12.89

$12.16

$12.40

 Easton

$608.18

$573.53

$584.92

 Schaghticoke

$52.84

$49.83

$50.82


*The tax rates and increases for next year are only estimates.
 The estimated tax rates and increases do not reflect any STAR or other tax exemptions that may reduce individual tax bills. This chart reflects the anticipated growth in property assessments and thus shows that tax rates may increase by less than 2 percent for some towns.


How does the GlobalFoundries PILOT affect the district’s budget?

The GlobalFoundries PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) is beneficial for Stillwater CSD because, unlike state aid, a PILOT guarantees an amount of revenue for the district for each year under the terms of the agreement. This year the district is expected to receive $2,397,000.

What is a fund balance and how does it impact the budget?

A fund balance is created when a district is able to generate a surplus by receiving more revenue than expected and/or by spending less than the amount budgeted. As part of the proposed 2016-17 budget, Stillwater is planning to allocate $495,665 from its unrestricted fund balance to help mitigate the tax impact on district residents in the coming year.

It is important to note that fund balances can eventually level off or even run out—they are not a guaranteed portion of any school district’s budget. As such, the use of fund balance is not a reliable long-term solution to support school funding or to lower taxes.

The Stillwater Free Library funding will be on the ballot this year. Does this mean the library will be run by the board of education?

No. The Stillwater Free Library will not be governed by the Board of Education. The library will have the same service boundary as the school district and school district voters will vote on the library budget and trustees directly. The school district will levy and collect an additional tax if approved by the voters and then it will forward the money to the library.

How will voting this year be different than in the past?

Rather than using a traditional levered machine to vote on the Stillwater proposed 2016-17 school budget, voters will instead fill out paper ballots at privacy stations and then feed their ballots into an optical scanner that will read and store their votes.

The district is making the move after the expiration of a New York state waiver allowing school districts to use the levered voting machines. Surrounding counties have also switched to the optical scanners in
recent years.

What happens if the budget proposal is not approved?

Under New York state law, if the proposed budget is defeated by voters, the Board of Education has three options: present the same budget to voters a second time, present a revised budget to voters or adopt a contingent budget. If the budget is defeated a second time, the board must adopt a contingent budget.

With the tax levy cap law in effect, the rules for a contingent budget state that a district can levy a tax no greater than that of the prior budget year—a zero percent increase. In other words, Stillwater would have to eliminate the $449,988 tax levy increase included in the current budget proposal by finding additional revenues, making additional reductions and/or by allocating more fund balance.

What else will be on the ballot on May 17?

Building maintenance

On May 17, there will be two propositions on the ballot related to maintenance improvement. The first will be to establish a capital reserve fund of $100,000 to cover the cost of repairs to the HVAC systems and electrical and plumbing equipment at the elementary school, middle school and transportation building.

The second proposition will be to expend the $100,000 in the capital reserve fund. This project is a continuation of the district’s long-range plan to improve and maintain its facilities.

The district would receive state aid reimbursement for nearly 85 percent of the cost of the project.

Board election

There are three (3) open seats on the Board of Education. The candidates receiving the highest number of votes will be elected to the Board of Education for three-year terms, beginning July 1, 2016 and ending June 30, 2019.

The candidates are:

  • Valerie Masterson (incumbent)
  • Shay Valigorsky
  • Kristina Greene

 

Stillwater Free Library

New to the ballot this year, residents will vote on a separate proposition to fund the Stillwater Free Library for $222,495. Under State Education Law, funding for the library is collected by the school district and then forwarded to the library. Voters will also vote on nine library trustees.

For more information, visit the Stillwater Free Library website at http://stillwater.sals.edu

When and where do I vote on the 2016-17 school budget?

Residents can vote on the school district budget on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. in the old Stillwater Middle School Gym.

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