2018-05-31 / Front Page

Voters to consider budget Monday

$24.3M spending plan would increase tax rate by 2.2%

A town budget that spends $585,000 more than this year will be in the hands of voters Monday.

The $24.3 million measure for fiscal year 2018-19, which is 2.4 percent more than the current spending plan, is underlined by $13.6 million to operate the schools. That figure, which includes $260,000 in debt service, is responsible for nearly 80 percent of the increase.

Members of the school board, however, are pointing to unavoidable hikes, including eight additional high school students this fall, which is growing the tuition budget by $262,162. That is about 9 percent more than the current year.

Special education costs are even greater, with the $414,708 uptick representing 16.5 percent more. Ken Duva, superintendent of schools, said this highlights the district’s reputation because parents target this program for their children.

“We are developing the future children who will someday give back to their community,” he said. “The increase in funding to special education provides positive outcomes to our students, families, school and community. It provides success, engagement and positive results to our commended schools.”

The most important figure for taxpayers is the looming 19-cent increase to the property tax rate to support the $19.8 million levy. That would increase the rate to $8.85 per $1,000 valuation, a 2.2 percent uptick that would cost a homeowner $95 more in taxes for a $500,000 house.

Town and school officials were able to knock a dime off the originally proposed rate prior to the budget’s adoption. Changes at the 11th hour included $25,000 axed from the Fort Getty reserve, increased rates at the trailer park and a 20 percent reduction to the art teacher’s position.

Town Administrator Andy Nota, however, hopes this is an outlier year. “This rate should fluctuate downward again next year after the statistical revaluation is concluded,” he said.

Among the glaring changes, there is a $50,000 shortfall in revenue stemming from the golf course. Since retiring the bond in 2008, the town has taken 86 percent of the $175,000 annual lease to subsidize the general fund, leaving only $25,000 earmarked for course improvements. The council, however, agreed to earmark an additional $100,000 annually to the reserve for improvements to the irrigation system and greens. To cushion that shortfall, the council transferred an additional $50,000 from the fund balance.

Another outlier is a 40 percent increase in senior services, fueled by the coordinator’s position increasing from 19 hours to 30 hours per week. The $102,620 figure represents an 80 percent increase from 2013-14 for senior services.

The municipal capital improvement plan is $971,200, including $390,000 for road improvements, $40,500 for a new police cruiser, $75,000 for the affordable housing trust and $59,200 to upgrade to an 800-megahertz frequency band from the antiquated VHF system. On the school side, capital improvements total $166,825, which includes replacing the exhaust hood for $50,000 in the Melrose School kitchen and $55,000 to install a new diesel tank at Lawn.

Aside from the school and municipal budgets, the only other questions are four housekeeping warrants. No motion to change an appropriation by $10,000 or more will be allowed.

The Taxpayers Association of Jamestown, a watchdog group for public spending, is campaigning for voters to reject the budget. In a handout distributed throughout town, members said administrative costs in the school district top $1 million for about 500 students while the municipal surplus continues to grow while being 10 percent higher than comparable towns.

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