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South Lewis school budget would raise levy by 1.96 percent

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TURIN — The South Lewis Central School District’s tentative budget would cut spending, thanks to the paying off of a past capital project, but include a tax levy increase of 1.96 percent.

Given the fiscal constraints in recent years, Superintendent Douglas E. Premo said, this was probably the least painful budget process he has been involved with in his five years at the district helm.

“We have no job cuts,” he said. “No programs cut. No opportunities for kids eliminated.”

Spending in the proposed budget, adopted recently by the Board of Education, would be $24,559,383, down $617,351 from this year’s $25,176,734; that’s a 2.45 percent decrease.

The tax levy, or the total to be raised by property taxes, would increase by $153,939, from $7,835,233 to $7,989,172. Tax rates won’t be determined until town assessment rolls are completed in late summer.

The proposed levy increase is well below the maximum allowable increase, under state tax cap rules, of 4.95 percent, Mr. Premo said.

Overall state aid is projected to drop by $629,021, from $15.11 million to $14.48 million.

However, that stemmed from a dramatic reduction in state building aid because of the retirement of old debt, Mr. Premo said.

Without factoring in building aid, state funding for the district is slated to increase by $441,566, or nearly 4 percent, over this year, he said.

That allowed district officials to rely less on fund balance to keep taxes down than in the current school year. The proposed budget would use $1.43 million from the fund balance, down from $1.53 million in 2012-13.

The primary factors driving up educational spending continue to be salaries, health insurance and, in particular, state retirement costs, Mr. Premo said.

He said that over his five years as superintendent, the annual pension cost to the district has risen by well over 250 percent.

The tentative budget includes two new building safety monitor positions, although they actually were added earlier this year to beef up security, Mr. Premo said.

District officials expect to see some savings next year by consolidating a pair of after-school bus runs, departing at 2:06 and 2:46 p.m., into a single run with all buses leaving at 2:38 p.m., he said.

They are planning not to refill a full-time bus driver or part-time teacher position being vacated through retirements, Mr. Premo said.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be at 7 p.m. today in the middle-high school library, while the annual budget vote and Board of Education election will take place from noon to 8 p.m. May 21 in the middle-high school music room.

District voters also will be asked to approve the purchase of three 66-passenger buses for up to $307,147.

Thomas Burmingham is running for a five-year seat on the Board of Education being vacated by Lydia A. Wojnowski.

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