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Harrisville school budget would raise levy by 2.97 percent

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HARRISVILLE — The Harrisville Central School District’s tentative budget would increase the tax levy by 2.97 percent, less than half the allowable hike under state tax cap legislation.

While state lawmakers last year enacted a so-called 2 percent tax cap, a formula allows districts to exclude some of their expenses, including pension costs, to allow for a higher actual percentage increase.

Under the formula, the Harrisville district could have raised the levy by up to 6.46 percent without having to override the cap, District Superintendent Rolf A. Waters said.

The proposed tax levy, or amount to be raised by property taxes, is set at $3,345,587, up $96,564 from $3,249,023 in 2011-12.

Exact tax rates will not be available until town tax rolls are done in August.

The tentative 2011-12 budget, adopted recently by the Board of Education, would increase spending by $424,002, from $8,834,257 to $9,258,259. That’s a 4.8 percent increase.

State operational aid, initially proposed by the governor to increase by $47,147, ended up rising by $89,147 following budget negotiations between the governor and state lawmakers, Mr. Waters said.

“That put us into a position to cut less than I thought we were going to have to,” he said.

District officials plan to reduce one bus run in the upcoming school year, Mr. Waters said. “We’re going to try to consolidate our runs to make them more efficient, if we can,” he said. The district also will go from two prekindergarten sessions to one, primarily owing to a smaller projected enrollment, he said.

Plans are to drop the summer school program, both because of a lack of attendance the past couple years and the presence of contractors in the building to complete work, including asbestos abatement and locker room renovations, on its capital project, Mr. Waters said.

Salaries are to increase by $128,829, from $2.96 million to $3.09 million, while employee benefits are projected to increase by $195,198, from $2.25 million to $2.45 million. Fuel oil costs are anticipated to rise from $291,600 to $310,310.

“Almost every single one of the significant increases in our budget are things we don’t control,” Mr. Waters said.

The district used $161,000 in one-time federal educational jobs funding in this year’s budget to help cover teacher salaries, but that money will not be available for 2012-13, he said.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the school auditorium, while the vote is slated for 1 to 8 p.m. May 15 in the cafeteria.

District residents also will be asked to authorize the purchase of a bus for up to $95,857.03. The Harrisville Public Library is requesting an increase in its annual school tax levy funding from $30,000 to $35,000, so that proposal will also be on the ballot.

On a positive note, the Harrisville district recently was granted a $50,000 member item through state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, to be used for technology improvements.

The funding, which was not figured into the proposed budget and must be used by the end of June, will be used primarily to upgrade district computers, particularly ones that will be running new Web-based student and teacher assessment programs, Mr. Waters said.

The upgrades are expected to affect 170 students immediately and 280 in the 2012-13 school year, Mr. Waters said.

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