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Jan 12, 2016 12:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor Schools Prepare For Potential Impact Of State Tax Levy Cap That Could Be Near Zero

Jan 12, 2016 2:48 PM

Sag Harbor school officials expect to face financial challenges in the 2016-17 fiscal year, as the state’s cap on tax levy increases is expected to drop to below 1 percent—and possibly nearly to zero.

District Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi explained to the School Board on Monday, at its first budget workshop of the year, that it will soon have to “make tough choices in staffing levels and delivery of services.” She said the district will have to absorb extra costs this year, many of them stemming from the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“There are all of these increases, even though we are looking at a levy growth factor of 0.12 percent,” Ms. Buscemi said, using another term for what is more commonly known as the state tax levy cap, which limits the increase in the amount of money a district can raise through property taxes from one year to the next. “It is practically no increase,” she said of the possible cap for 2016-17.

The cap is set at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, and the rate of inflation is expected to be very low, Ms. Buscemi said. This year, it is 1.62 percent statewide.

The state comptroller has projections of the potential impact on school districts if the cap is significantly lower this year—and they are startling. Statewide, if the tax levy cap were to be set at 0.73 percent in 2016-17, school districts statewide would have $182.7 million less to spend than if the cap were equal to the 1.62 percent utilized this year. If the cap were zero, the difference would be $332.6 million statewide.

Ms. Buscemi explained that because of the Affordable Care Act, the district will have to offer health insurance to 20 additional employees who work a minimum of 30 hours per week, which will cost an extra $53,755 in total.

“There is a lot of money that had to be spent just in order for us to stay compliant with these new regulations,” Ms. Buscemi said. Among those expenditures are a time-tracking system for substitutes and overtime pay for staff to review records to help successfully implement the Affordable Care Act.

Superintendent Katy Graves suggested that it would make sense for the state to allow the Affordable Care Act regulations to be “outside of our tax cap”; there are currently some other exceptions to the cap for each school district.

“Having health insurance for a lot of people is wonderful, but the bell keeps ringing on it,” she said. “It is another unfunded mandate.”

Ms. Buscemi also noted that she budgeted extra funds for district meeting fees. “We are getting to a point where there may be a day that we have to exceed the tax cap next year,” she said. “We could, in fact, have a second budget vote—have our first budget voted down and have to go out.”

The administrator added that having a second budget vote could cost about $30,000, because of the high price of electronic voting machines and paper ballots, as well as the need to turn the election around quickly. In total, that proposed budget line increased by $6,825 for 2016.

“We know things are getting tough, and we may be faced with having more than one vote in a year,” Ms. Buscemi said.

However, she noted that the district will try, at all costs, to avoid piercing the tax cap in future years: “We are hopeful that we are going to do some more compression and cover any budget gap with our current funds.”

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Wow. Sounds like the last thing Sag Harbor should be doing is spending money to evaluate buying another run down building. I believe all health insurance costs could have been covered with the money spent on consultants, and creation of a survey to find out how the community feels about buying Stella Maris. With budget deficits predicted, our school breakfast/lunch programs non-compliant with the state DOE requirements (that cost the district $50K+ in reimbursements), and overall enrollment predicted ...more
By Arnold Timer (324), Sag Harbor on Jan 12, 16 5:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
Above should read INCREASED health insurance costs...
By Arnold Timer (324), Sag Harbor on Jan 12, 16 5:27 PM
Makes one wonder why Stella Maris is being pursued at all. Perhaps those intentions can be found reading between the lines on why BOE member TJ Schiavoni recused himself from voting on any Stella related matter because his wife ( a Town Justice) is on the St Andrews Church finance committee. St Andrews owns Stella.

Some questions to start asking : So whats going on with finances of St Andrews? How are they doing and how badly do they need to monetize this rotting, unused building ...more
By GALAXIE (43), SAG HARBOR on Jan 12, 16 5:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lower enrollment, many 6 figure salaries for less than 9 months employment, spending tax payer funds to investigate purchasing a building for which there is questionable need, and all for the children? Actually all for empire building & to preserve the status of overpaid employees. When does this nonsense end?
By patriot50 (42), sag harbor on Jan 12, 16 6:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lower enrollment, many 6 figure salaries for less than 9 months employment, spending tax payer funds to investigate purchasing a building for which there is questionable need, and all for the children? Actually all for empire building & to preserve the status of overpaid employees. When does this nonsense end?
By patriot50 (42), sag harbor on Jan 12, 16 6:44 PM
It will never stop until they drain every cent out of taxpayers. The schools are filled with un needed employees and administrators never in the building.
I'm not a Democrat, but I have to take my hat off to the governor who at least put a stop to future spending for now.
By chief1 (2725), southampton on Jan 13, 16 8:23 AM
OBAMACARE IS A LARGE PART OF THE PROBLEM!!
By bigfresh (4380), north sea on Jan 13, 16 3:36 PM
You're wrong. Just another misinformed remark about the ACA...
The teacher's and other's unions already guaranteed lifetime pensions and full health care for tenured teachers & most other school employees long before the ACA was even thought of. The level of benefits provided far exceeds the minimums prescribed by the ACA even in retirement.
By Arnold Timer (324), Sag Harbor on Jan 13, 16 6:13 PM
"Ms. Buscemi explained that because of the Affordable Care Act, the district will have to offer health insurance to 20 additional employees who work a minimum of 30 hours per week, which will cost an extra $53,755 in total"

The district just lost almost the same amount in reimbursement from the NYS DOE because the school's meal programs do not meet the state's minimum requirements.
By Arnold Timer (324), Sag Harbor on Jan 13, 16 6:16 PM
Thanks Ms Buschemi for the lies. It couldn't be the 6 figure salaries, and existing benfits destroying education. Do like the rest of us tighten your belt, and deal with it.
By chief1 (2725), southampton on Jan 14, 16 7:46 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Arnold Timer (324), Sag Harbor on Jan 16, 16 2:59 PM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser