By Holly Crocco
The Brewster Central School District is beginning its budget process on a positive note: An increase in state aid means the district will not have to increase the amount of money it collects from taxpayers in 2023-24.
“Going forward into next year, we have received enough state aid that we do not need to increase the tax levy,” said Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Victor Karlsson at the Feb. 7 Brewster School Board meeting. “I believe this is the first time in over a decade that we are in a position that we can actually do this.”
Statewide, there has been a 10 percent increase in education aid – the majority of which has to do with the state completing its phasing-in of Foundation Aid. “So, we are now at the level we should be,” said Karlsson.
The district will see a 21 percent – or $4.7 million – increase in state and federal aid, which Karlsson called “an absolutely incredible number, which certainly we haven’t seen in a long time.”
In addition, the district anticipates using $3 million from its fund balance and reserves – the same amount as the current year. This will bring the district’s total revenue budget up $5 million, or 4.5 percent, to $115 million.
Karlsson said state aid is what drives the district’s revenue budget, with interest proceeds and fund balance being the only other revenue sources to offset property taxes, which make up 70 percent of the district’s revenue.
“That’s good and bad,” he said. “It makes us more reliant and dependent on the state, if unfortunately, the state’s finances fall into trouble. But for the time being, it’s all good news.”
However, Karlsson cautioned that this does not mean homeowners will not see a change on their school tax bills. He said changes to property assessments, and the newly-approved exemptions for veterans, first-responders and seniors, all affect a person’s tax bill.
The Brewster School Board will hear additional updates on budget progress at subsequent meetings.