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Potsdam likely to exceed tax cap with budget proposal

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POTSDAM — When voters from the Potsdam Central School district head to the polls May 15, they likely will be voting on a budget that exceeds the state’s 2 percent tax cap limit.

While there is a formula used to calculate a district’s tax cap, Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said, the district landed on exactly 2 percent.

Heading into the process, the district had anticipated having a maximum tax levy increase of 3.1 percent. But after the district learned that money spent last year on the purchase of a bus had to be inserted into the formula as a capital expense, its final levy limit ended up being 2 percent, an increase of only $221,315.

When the board met two weeks ago, the majority of board members suggested surpassing the tax levy limit and giving voters a chance to approve a budget with fewer cuts.

The board’s finance committee this week recommended a $26,123,402 spending plan that calls for a 2.9 percent tax levy increase.

Mr. Brady said the extra 0.9 percent translates to an additional $99,624 in revenue for the district, giving it a total tax levy of $11,390,272.

The scenario recommended by the finance committee was one of four Mr. Brady presented to the committee, each with a varying degree of fund balance and reserves used, as well as a varying degrees of restorations.

As proposed the scenario calls for the restoration of two special-education teachers, a social studies teacher, a math teacher, a part-time science teacher, an English teacher, an elementary teacher, a part-time music teacher, a teacher aide, the middle school’s summer school program and a summer school teacher’s aide, the afternoon sports bus run and modified sports, totalling $657,897 in budget restorations.

Mr. Brady said these restorations will be paid for with the $99,624 in additional tax levy money, $160,528 in additional state aid and an additional $396,046 from the fund balance for a total of $2,146,046 in fund balance and reserves used in the budget.

“Given that we’ve lost considerable state aid over the years, we’re put in the difficult position of having to cut staffing and programs. All of the scenarios would restore some of these cuts, which would help to reduce class sizes and provide more support to our special-education program and put some good teachers back in the classroom,” he said.

But the proposal doesn’t come without risk, he said.

According to Mr. Brady, the proposal will leave the district with $3,367,199 remaining for use in future years, enough to carry the district through only one more budget, should the same amount be used again next year.

Given the fact that the proposal calls for a tax levy increase greater than what’s allowed under the tax cap, 60 percent of the district’s voters would have to approve of the budget for it to take effect.

Should that not occur, Mr. Brady said, the board will have one more opportunity to present the public with a budget proposal. Should the second attempt not garner the needed support, the district would be forced to adopt a contingency budget.

“The full board will need to consider the recommendation and make a final decision at the meeting on April 16,” Mr. Brady said.

That meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the high school library.

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