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May 25, 2017
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Stillwater News

2017-18 budget questions and answers

Apr. 25, 2017

What is the budget proposal for next year?

On Tuesday, May 16, Stillwater Central School District residents will vote on a proposed $24,529,950 budget for the 2017-18 school year. For another year, the board of education has approved a proposal that preserves all of the district’s existing programs. It also includes additional enrichment and special education programs, and a full-time elementary teaching position.

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 5.25 percent. Of that increase, 3.26 percent is due to total growth in property assessments within the district, and the remaining 1.99 percent would result in an increase in local taxes. This increase is below Stillwater’s maximum allowable tax levy increase as determined by the state’s tax levy “cap” formula.

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 2017-18 budget proposal increases spending by $540,491, or 2.25 percent, over the current year budget. Much of that increase is driven by rising costs associated with salaries, employee pensions and benefits, as well as state and federal mandated programs and services. The proposal also includes some program additions and enhancements. The proposed budget includes:

  •  the addition of a full-time elementary math enrichment teacher who will help students
    with their math skills;
  • the addition of summer enrichment programs to provide students with learning opportunities when school is not in session;
  • the addition of a Unified Sports Program to allow special education students to participate in sports;
  • the enhancement of the Work- Based Learning Program where special education students learn skills and jobs;
  • and, enhancements and improvements for the arts and music department

 

How would the proposed budget affect my taxes?

While the tax levy would increase by $514,438 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 in each of the district’s four towns. The chart reflects the anticipated growth in property assessments and thus shows that tax rates are projected to increase by less than 2 percent for some towns. Please note these are only estimates and they may differ from the final tax rates set in August.

  Town
2015 Rate 
Per $1,000 Assessed Value
2016 Rate 
Per $1,000 Assessed Value
*2017 Rate 
Per $1,000 Assessed Value

 Stillwater

$13.43

$13.60

$13.87

 Saratoga

$12.16

$12.31

$12.55

 Easton

$573.53

$580.77

$592.33

 Schaghticoke

$49.83

$51.52

$52.54


*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.

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 2017-18 budget, Stillwater is planning to allocate $632,242 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.

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. In 2017-18, the district is slated to receive $2,195,000 under this agreement.

The Alternative Veterans Exemption will be on the ballot as a non-binding vote this year. What does that mean?

A non-binding vote is being held to gauge community support on the school district offering the Alternative Veterans Exemption, which allows certain veterans to exempt a portion of their assessed property from their tax bill. It is not legally necessary for the district to follow the outcome of this vote; however, the Board will review the results of this proposition and use the data to help guide their decision on offering this exemption.

Under the Alternative Veterans Exemption, the tax levy (total amount of taxes) collected from all residents by the school district does not change. If the exemption is adopted by the Board, there would be a redistribution of taxes among existing district property owners, and it would not be put into place until the 2018-19 school year. Learn more at the budget hearing on May 2.

What happens if the budget is not approved?

Under New York state law, if the proposed budget is defeated by voters, the Board has three options: present the same budget a second time, present a revised budget 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 $505,638 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 16?

Building maintenance
On May 16, there will be two propositions on the ballot related to maintenance improvements. 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
Along with the budget vote on Tuesday, May 16, the district will hold its annual board of education election.

Terms currently held by John Butler, Brian McNeil and Cheryl Richardson will expire on June 30, 2017. As a result, there are three open seats on the board, each with a three-year team beginning July 1, 2017 and ending June 30, 2020.

The district has received only one petition, from Brian McNeil, for the three available seats. This means that McNeil’s name will be the only name on the May 16 ballot. However, pursuant to education law, any votes for write-in candidates on the day of the vote will be counted. The two qualified residents receiving the most valid write-in votes will win two of the three available seats on the board. If there are no write-in votes, state law allows the current board members to appoint qualified residents to fill the vacancies.

Alternative Veterans Exemption
New on the ballot this year, residents will vote on a separate proposition to approve the Alternative Veterans Exemption. This is a non-binding vote, which means that the district is not legally obligated to follow the outcome of this vote. The Board will review the results of this proposition to help guide their decision to offer this exemption, and at what level. If the Board decides to go forward with offering this exemption, it would not be put into place until the
2018-19 school year.

When and where do I vote on the 2017-18 school budget?

Residents can vote on the school district budget on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. in the old Stillwater Middle School Gym.

Information on absentee ballots:
Absentee ballots are available for registered voters who meet the requirements for absentee voting. To receive an absentee ballot by mail, you must submit a completed application at least seven (7) days before the election or pick it up in person at the district office. Call Board Clerk Mary Sgambati at 373-6100, ext. 30022, for assistance. To download an absentee ballot application, visit www.scsd.org.

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