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General Brown Central hopes to maintain all programs by increasing tax levy by 6.97 percent

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DEXTER — Unless residents approve a 6.97 percent increase in the property tax levy, the General Brown Central School District will have to make extreme cuts, eliminating varsity and modified sports and sections of the kindergarten and prekindergarten programs, Superintendent Cammy J. Morrison said Thursday night.

“We’re putting it out there: If we don’t get the tax increase we need, these are jobs and programs we will be cutting,” Board of Education member Daniel J. Dupee II said.

The board approved a $21,026,877 budget for 2014-15 to put before voters with a 6.97 percent increase in the tax levy, or the amount to be raised by taxes — nearly triple the maximum allowable increase of 2.25 percent under state law. A budget exceeding the tax cap must be approved by 60 percent of the voters, according to state law. Residents will vote May 20.

The school board on Thursday presented what programs would have to be cut if the budget fails to pass and the board decides to put a budget before voters with a 2.25 percent tax levy increase. If a second budget isn’t approved the district will have to adopt a contingency budget with no tax levy increase. Mrs. Morrison said the 6.97 percent increase is necessary to preserve programs as is.

“If we have to make cuts, everything would be on the table,” Mrs. Morrison said. “These aren’t easy decisions, but we believe we can get this budget through.”

If the budget is turned down, all varsity and modified sports would be cut and a full-day kindergarten would be reduced to half day, board member Jamie Lee said.

The junior varsity teams were eliminated from the budget last year but the programs were preserved with community donations, Mrs. Morrison said.

In addition, the district would have to reduce noninstructional staff by one cleaner and one food service worker, and administrative staff would take a pay freeze, if the proposed budget is rejected and the board decided to adopt a budget with the 2.25 percent tax levy increase.

Mrs. Morrison said one prekindergarten staff member will be cut through attrition regardless of which budget is passed.

The district would face a $318,000 deficit if it has to adopt a budget with a 2.25 tax levy increase, she said.

Mrs. Morrison said a district the size of General Brown should have about $800,000 in reserves. Over the past few years, the district has spent from the fund balance to maintain programs, and now there is no more money left in reserve, she said.

A 6.97 percent increase may seem like a lot, but the increase last year of 5.83 percent amounted to about a $10 tax increase for residents, the superintendent said.

“We can’t say for sure how much 6.97 percent will be for our voters, but we do have a larger tax base because of new businesses in the area,” Mrs. Morrison said.

She said the district doesn’t want to eliminate any more than it has. She said since the implementation of the state Gap Elimination Adjustment, the district has cut 46 positions. Those positions have led to the elimination of the driver’s education program, entire language courses, physics and more.

Mrs. Morrison said the district sought input from the community about what could be cut. “It was from those discussions that really made the board want to go for the 6 percent increase,” she said.

The district will hold its annual budget hearing to present it’s official adopted spending plan at 6 p.m. May 12.

For more information about the tax cap formula or to see the entire budget breakdown, go to General Brown’s website at www.gblions.org.

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