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Putnam Schools Present Early Budget Numbers

By Holly Crocco

School districts across the county – and the state – are busy putting together their preliminary budgets for the 2024-25 school year, with school boards and residents getting a first glimpse at some of those numbers.

In Brewster, Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Operations Victor Karlsson addressed the school board at its Feb. 6 meeting, presenting a $119.7 million budget, which reflects a 3.5 percent or $4 million increase over the current year, as a “starting point.”

According to Karlsson, the state-mandated property tax cap allows the district to increase its tax levy by 3.12 percent, or $2.5 million. He explained that the district’s tax base growth factor accounted for 1.15 percent of that tax cap increase.

“There are new properties that have come onto the tax roll that are going to absorb a portion of the tax burden,” he explained.

Other items that are included in the district’s tax cap equation are changes to Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreements and to capital projects exclusions.

With 70 percent of the district’s revenue made up through property taxes, the district welcomes a 2.9 percent, or $900,000, increase in state education aid.

To fill the deficit between expenditures and revenue, Karlsson suggests the district use $200,000 in fund balance/reserves – which is less than it has used in the past. “We’re actually reducing our reliance on savings to balance our budget,” he said.

In addition, the Employee Retirement System pension contribution rate for noncertificated staff is increasing significantly, noted Karlsson. “We have an ERS reserve established, so we’ll be drawing down on that to help offset those increases,” he said.

In Carmel, Assistant Superintendent for Business John Fink presented an initial $1.27 million to the school board at its Feb. 6 meeting.

He noted that state aid is “underfunded” this year, with  $38.5 million (an increase of $1.2 million) currently earmarked for the district, putting more reliance on the tax levy.

“Over the past three years, when state aid has been more generous, there has been less reliance on the tax levy, resulting in $4,364,113 not being sent to the taxpayers,” said Fink. “For the 2024-25 school year, the CCSD will need to rely more heavily on the tax levy to maintain programs.”

Under the tax cap, the district may increase its tax levy from $101.3 million this year to $104.9 million next year, an increase of 3.52 percent or $3.57 million.

If the district collects the maximum tax levy and uses the same amount of fund balance as this year ($1.1 million), residents in Carmel, Patterson, Putnam Valley, Southeast and East Fishkill would see a tax increase of $74 per $100,000 of assessed value. This means that for a house assessed at $350,000, the property owner would pay $259 more next year.

Kent residents would see an increase of $107 per $100,000 of assessed value next year.

These number are based on no change in each town’s assessed value or equalization rates, and includes the STAR exemption.

In Mahopac, the tax cap allows the district to increase its levy 2.57 percent, or $2.4 million, to $98.1 million.

It is anticipating a $1.4 million increase in state aid.

Major cost drivers for the district include contractual salaries within three different bargaining units that are currently in negotiations, an estimated 2 percent increase in the cost of BOCES services, a 15.2 percent increase to ERS for non-instructional salaries (up from 13.1 percent this year), a 10 percent increase to the Teacher Retirement System on instructional salaries (up from 9.7 percent this year), a 5 percent increase in health insurance rates, a 2 percent increase in transportation costs and a 2 percent increase in utilities.


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