Tuckahoe Uses Reserves To Adopt Budget Under Cap

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The Tuckahoe Board of Education unanimously adopted a proposed 2015-16 budget of $19.1 million that remains under the state cap on tax levy increases, though administrators say reserve funds were used to stay under the cap, and reserves are dwindling.

The spending plan will maintain all programs and staff, although it does eliminate one part-time social worker position that is not currently filled. The biggest challenge for administrators when creating the budget was an increase in special education tuition, which will go up approximately $1 million next year.

To offset the tuition increase, the district will use $519,875 from a reserve fund. That will allow it to remain under the tax cap, but District Superintendent Chris Dyer said that doing so will be more difficult next year.

“We have to be very careful,” Mr. Dyer explained this week. “We didn’t cut everywhere, but we judiciously looked at every line of our budget and we moved a significant amount of reserves over to cover our operational expenses”

The $19,095,393 district budget will increase $299,533, or 1.6 percent, from the current year’s $18,795,860 spending plan. The district will need to levy $17,451,407 from district taxpayers, an increase of 3.7 percent, or $628,523 over the current year’s $16,822,884 levy. The adopted tax levy includes state-allowed exemptions, and was able to remain under the cap because the district used $519,875 from the district reserve.

Currently, the district is projecting a tax rate of $7.7001 per $1,000 of assessed value for district taxpayers, an increase of roughly $0.30 over the current year’s $7.4055 rate. For a home valued at $500,000, taxpayers will be paying $3,850 in school taxes, an increase of $147 over the current year’s $3,702.

The biggest factor in this year’s budget was determining a tuition agreement for the district’s high school students. The district is anticipating a significant increase in special education tuition—$859,060 more, from $1,144,763 to $2,003,823, that will go to the Southampton and Westhampton Beach districts.

The district also has a one-year tuition deal in place with the Southampton School District for the education of most of Tuckahoe’s high school students. Under the agreement, Tuckahoe will pay $23,009 for general education students and $66,632 for each student requiring special education services. The contract was originally proposed by Southampton as a five-year exclusivity deal, with increases determined by Southampton’s budget-to-budget changes, but that offer was declined by Tuckahoe officials, who said it was unfeasible and unpredictable. Instead, the rates for the first year were adopted for a one-year pact.

“Our special education tuition rate is the biggest expense,” Business Administrator Dr. Phillip Kenter said. “It is our biggest jump.”

The school budget vote is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Tuckahoe School library on Magee Street. At the same time, taxpayers will be asked to vote in the annual Board of Education election, in which Sean Hattrick is running for a three-year term. Longtime board member Harald Steudte has opted not to seek re-election.

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