NORFOLK — The Norwood-Norfolk Central School Board of Education will meet on Tuesday for another budget work session before the state budget is scheduled to be passed in April and school districts can finalize their state aid figures.
Until then, district officials are still unsure about the potential tax levy increase in their proposed 2021-22 budget, although it could be up to 1.64%.
Superintendent James Cruikshank and Business Manager Lisa Mitras updated the board during its recent session, but there were few changes to announce from their previous budget draft.
“Pending what we will receive in state aid, we seem to have a consensus that the board was comfortable moving forward with a 1.64% tax levy increase. If the picture becomes brighter and we end up receiving more aid, that consensus was more of a comfortable level of not increasing taxes,” Ms. Mitras said.
Although they’re not considering it, the tax levy increase could be higher.
“The last time we met, we talked quite a bit about the tax levy because as it stands right now, we could go up to a maximum of I think about 3.04% with carryover (from the previous year),” she said.
Mr. Cruikshank said it was still difficult to get a handle on how much state aid they could expect this year. He said the $1.9 trillion federal economic stimulus package was “rather complex” to figure out.
“We’re still trying to learn about all the nuances that entails. We do know there’s 20% set aside, which that looks like there’s some strings attached to it for gap closing measures,” he said.
He recently told the district’s Finance Committee that they had gone out with no tax levy increase for the past three years. But if they went out with another 0% increase this year, it might mean an even higher tax levy increase once state aid funding goes down.
“What we’re fearful of is at some point when the federal stimulus money runs out ... we’ll be looking at a jump. We’re skinny right now. We’re slim, but I’m afraid that even so, with all the years with no tax levy increase when you need one, you’re going to have to jump. We’re not looking to beef up our budget. We’re looking to stay slim,” he told committee members.
So, in the meantime, they continue to use figures from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget proposal in their spending plan.
“That’s usually the most conservative,” Mr. Cruikshank said. “Just this week the Senate and the Assembly came out with what’s called their one-house budgets. The Assembly is traditionally the most liberal and the Senate kind of oscillates back and forth. This year it seems like the Senate’s proposal is more in line with the Assembly’s. With that, there’s a lot of speculation about where the aid will end up. But we really don’t know until they come out with an agreement between the Executive, Assembly and Senate. It makes for a very complex process.”