Last Wednesday, the Levittown School District revealed a budget for 2012-13 that called for a 4 percent decrease from the district’s 2011-12 budget. That doesn’t mean the district will be free of constraints from that tax cap, though.
In October, board vice president Peter Porrazzo warned residents that most of that two percent revenue would be used towards pension and healthcare increases. The 4 percent decrease in budget helps combat this somewhat. But there is still a gap between how much money the district can raise and how much money is budgeted.
“It’s the budgeted amount that’s going down, not the actual expenditure,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Grossane. “There’s an increase in health costs, there’s an increase in retirement contributions. Cost of living is 3 percent, so everything we purchase is going up anywhere from 3 percent to 10 percent. That’s why the actual costs to keep this budget [and] to keep these services has actually gone up.”
Due to certain exemptions, mostly from capital expenditures, the district can actually raise the tax levy by 2.54 percent for 2012-13. Still, the amount of revenue they can raise is capped at $128,188,161. If you combine that with approximately $46 million in State aid, it leaves the district approximately $15 million short of its proposed budget.
Some of that will be made up in rent payments from BOCES, from fund balance and from other areas, although the district hopes to avoid using reserve funds this year. But the district may still need to trim, and those discussions will come up at next Wednesday’s board session.
Another crucial aspect of the tax cap bill is that a district can go over the allotted tax levy if they choose. To do so, however, they will need to pass a budget with 60 percent of the vote. Levittown has no plans to do that. In fact, they may not even use the extra cushion that exemptions provide them.
“What does everyone think their taxes are going up next year? 2 percent,” Grossane said. “That’s all you’ve ever heard is 2 percent. What we have to determine in looking at that is, instead of going for 2-and-a-half, we go out for the 2 like everyone’s expecting, where does that put us financially?”
The 2 percent tax cap will put many districts in a race against time, as they use whatever fund balances and reserve funds they have to cover whatever costs they need. If there is good news for Levittown, though, it’s that they made tough decisions last year, cutting a significant number of teaching jobs without a significant jump in class sizes. While they may still run out of fund balance and reserve funds, it will likely take three or four years. Some districts upstate are up against that wall this year.
“If they didn’t make those cuts last year, we would be making those cuts this year,” Grossane said. “While it was unpopular at the time, I think in the long run it showed everybody that this is the right amount of staff to be functioning with as we move forward.”