Dear Parents and Community Members,
In order to continuously grow and improve as a school, we reflect on all of our past achievements and take time to set new goals for the important work in 2018 and beyond. As we pass the mid-point of the school year, it is important to remain focused on learning and growing. There is a great deal to do in the months ahead and we look forward to working with all of our students to prepare them for the challenging tasks that are before them. We hope that a new semester will bring your child success in school and in all that they do. We will do all that we can to make this happen.
Parent Teacher Conferences
On Thursday, March 22, students in grades K-5 will be dismissed at 12:40 for spring parent conferences. Please look for more information from the elementary office regarding this important date.
State Budget News
As of the printing of this newsletter, the NYS Legislature has returned to Albany and started budget deliberations with Governor Cuomo. We remain hopeful that a reasonable course of action that focuses on the educational needs of our children will be considered in the final state budget decisions. Our Board of Education and administrative staff will be working hard in the weeks ahead to carefully evaluate every aspect of the 2018-19 projected budget. The Board has focused on the budget since December with considerable time spent on the development of a spending plan that meets the educational needs of the district while accommodating the economic issues at the national, state and local level. The Q & A segment that follows will help give interested citizens a good working knowledge of the challenges we will work to address in 2018-19.
What is the LACS Timeline for Budget Adoption?
Looking ahead, the following dates are important milestones as the budget comes together;
Board of Education Meetings - Upcoming 2018-19 Budget Development Workshops - February 12, March 5 and March 19, 2018
Adoption of 2018-19 Budget by LACS Board of Education -Tentatively Scheduled for April 9, 2018
Public Filing of the LACS Budget with NYS Education Department - By April 12, 2018
Official Public Hearing and Presentation - May 7, 2018 - LACS Elementary Cafeteria 6:30 p.m.
Annual Meeting including Trustee Election and Budget Vote - Tuesday, May 15 - 12:00 Noon-8:00 p.m. in the high school auditorium
What is the Board’s Overall Plan for 2018-19?
The Board has established a plan that will focus initially on maintaining academic, extracurricular and co-curricular programs while reducing whenever possible through attrition and other careful reductions.
Personnel Reductions - Where possible, staffing will be reduced through attrition. This has a programmatic impact and needs to be very carefully managed and well thought out. This decision will not be made until early April after the State adopts their budget.
Purchasing - The Board is carefully reviewing current expenditures in contractual services, supplies and equipment and being thoughtful regarding the addition of new sustaining costs.
Fund Balance/Reserves - The district will carefully offset the gap between necessary appropriation increases and the minimal increase in state aid partially through the use of fund balance put aside in past years. This can modestly be done over the next few years, but at some point these dollars disappear from the savings side and can’t be replaced if state aid doesn’t flow at appropriate levels.
How Does the Wind Turbine PILOT Affect the Budget?
The PILOT will continue to have a major impact on Lowville Academy in the years ahead. The current PILOT payment of approximately $3.56 million is nearly equal to our entire tax warrant. In 2018-19, the PILOT is scheduled to remain level. To prevent potential financial stress to the district, the Board of Education has devoted most of the PILOT revenue to year-by-year tax stabilization. The Board of Education’s use of PILOT funds to hold taxes “stable” over the last eleven years actually helped cause a significant decline in tax rates for the 11 towns in the Lowville Academy and Central School District. LACS school taxes proportionately are among the lowest for similar size rural school districts in NYS.
How Has the Board of Education Managed Reserve Funds Over the Last Five Years?
The district’s current Fund Balance sets aside approximately three times the amount of a full PILOT payment to offset any potential failure of the PILOT. This reserve would protect the district should an immediate problem occur.
Will the Tax Cap Impact LACS?
The tax cap uses a threshold of the lesser of 2% or the CPI as a starting point in determining the tax levy limit for any given school district. The levy limit formula includes other variables such as a growth factor and exclusions for pension and capital changes to actually establish the exact levy limit. Lowville Academy’s tax cap maximum is estimated to be 2% due to this year’s rate of inflation.
Does the Tax Cap Mean School Taxes Can’t Increase More Than 2 Percent?
No, a budget requiring a tax levy increase at or below the tax levy limit is put before the voters in May and requires approval from a simple majority of voters for passage. Should the Board of Education wish to exceed the tax levy limit, the community must approve this minimally with a super majority of 60% or higher.
Will the District Stay Within the Tax Cap?
The Board will make every effort to stay within the tax cap. Exceeding the cap would require an override by a positive super majority vote. The budget is still being developed, however, at this time the board does not anticipate seeking permission to exceed the cap.
If the Tax Levy Goes Up By x Percent, Does That Mean Everyone’s Taxes Go Up By x Percent, Also?
Not necessarily. Any change in the levy does not directly apply to individual property tax rates or changes in school taxes due in a given year. Tax rates paid by individual taxpayers may differ greatly from one household to another, based on things such as assessed value, equalization rates, STAR, etc. and may exceed 2%.
What If Voters Reject The Proposed Tax Levy?
If voters in the district reject the proposed budget, the school board may adopt a budget with a tax levy no greater than what was levied the previous year or put up either the same or a revised budget for a second vote. If voters reject the spending plan twice, schools must adopt a budget with the same tax levy as the prior year - essentially a zero percent cap.
As we go forward, please know the Board of Education will continue to work diligently to put the very best financial plan together for our school community. Please look for additional information in the April and May newsletters.
I want to thank each of your for supporting your child and working in partnership with us as we remain focused on our goal of providing the best educational opportunities for each of our students. Your commitment and dedication to both your children and to our community is evident and is deeply appreciated. It is truly a privilege to serve as Superintendent of Lowville Academy with the knowledge that our community recognizes education as being the key to a better life. Once again, thank you and the best to you in 2018!
Cheryl R. Steckly
Superintendent of Schools
Mrs. Cheryl Steckly
Superintendent of Schools
7668 State Street
Lowville, NY 13367
Letter from the Superintendent