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Proposed Canton school budget calls for 2.56 percent tax hike

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CANTON — Property owners in the Canton Central School District will see a projected 2.56 percent increase in the tax levy under a proposed 2014-15 school budget that preserves jobs and avoids program cuts.

The $26,522,577 spending plan is expected to be adopted by the school board Thursday. A public session is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in the high school library.

A budget hearing is scheduled for May 8. Voters go to the polls May 20 to approve or reject the budget and fill three open school board seats.

Including debt service payments, the proposed $26.5 million budget increases spending by 9.1 percent, which is $2.2 million more than this year’s $24.3 million budget. Next year’s proposed tax levy would generate an estimated $8,648,428, a $216,038 increase from the current budget.

Spending increases include a 7.2 percent increase in employee benefits, expected to increase from $8.3 million to $8.9 million. The cost of general and special education, which includes salaries, will increase an estimated 4.2 percent, from $9.4 million to $9.9 million. The cost of debt service and interfund transfers are projected to increase by 71 percent, from this year’s $1.6 million to $2.7 million.

The 2.56 percent proposed increase in the tax levy, or the amount to be raised in taxes, is the maximum the district is allowed under the state-imposed tax cap limit. A larger tax increase would require 60 percent approval from voters compared with 50 percent for staying within the limit.

School Superintendent William A. Gregory recommends the district help close a projected $2,085,307 budget gap by using the district’s entire unreserved fund balance, $782,108, plus debt reserves totaling $390,040, which would reduce the estimated budget gap to $697,121.

Besides the unreserved fund balance, the district expects to end this year’s budget with $775,000 in unspent funds by limiting expenses to “mission essential” items for the rest of the school year, the superintendent said.

The adopted state budget increases the district’s aid by 4.14 percent, not including building aid. The district expects to receive $13.7 million next year.

Mr. Gregory said the district’s “unattractive alternative” to balancing the budget could be cutting a range of non-mandated classes and programs, including athletics and extracurriculars.

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