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NNCS considering overriding tax cap for 2014-15 budget

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NORFOLK - As they continue work on their 2014-15 budget proposal, Norwood-Norfolk Central School officials are looking at different financial scenarios if they raised their tax cap.

The district’s current tax cap is 0.49 percent. A 1 percent increase on the tax levy equals $61,175 while a 0.49 percent tax increase yields about $29,908.

District voters had approved a 2013-14 budget that carried a 2.98 percent tax levy increase. That was under the state’s cap of 4.52 percent. However, that budget did not carry any personnel reductions, and this year school officials are looking at the possibility of eliminating eight full-time equivalent positions to close a current $888,000 gap in their 2014-15 spending plan.

Superintendent James M. Cruikshank told board members this week that the district has been attempting to keep taxes down over the years. He said that, since 2008, their average tax levy change has been 2.52 percent.

“However, the actual tax rate per $1,000 assessed dollars is -3.1 percent,” he said.

But, with eight positions on the line, Mr. Cruikshank suggested they may want to look at overriding their tax cap. Their current budget proposal is assuming a 0.49 percent tax levy increase.

“We’ve made some suggestions, some unpopular suggestions,” he said.

Mr. Cruikshank said he had met recently with Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell to discuss their budget concerns. He said that, while she is fighting to restore some of the funding lost through the gap elimination adjustment, district officials would need to make some decisions on their own about their budget.

“When I spoke to Addie, she suggested we exceed the property tax cap,” he said.

A representative from Sen. Joseph A. Griffo’s office also indicated there would be more state aid coming than proposed in the governor’s budget.

“No one is committing to how much,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

Board of education members suggested district officials should look at overriding the tax cap if it meant saving programs. Jonathan Hunkins suggested that voters have the ultimate say by either approving or rejecting the budget in May.

“Give them a chance to vote on it,” he said.

“If we want to exceed the tax cap, even by a little, we would need a lot of support,” Mr. Cruikshank said, noting they would need a 60 percent majority to vote yes on the budget if they went above their tax cap.

If 60 percent of the residents don’t say yes on the budget, it would be back to the drawing board for district officials, who would have to cut nearly $30,000 more from their budget.

“It’s a $29,000 risk,” the superintendent said.

Based on the board’s guidance this week, he and Business Manager Lisa M. Mitras will be working on different financial scenarios that can be presented at their next session.

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