- By Dan Veaner
The Lansing Board Of Education unanimously passed a $30,794,650 budget Monday for the 2019-20 school year. School Business Administrator Kate Heath told school board members that the estimated tax rate increase is less than 1%, with an anticipated tax increase of $9 for owners of a $50,000 home, $18 for a $100,000 home, and $36 for a $200,000 home. The increase in the tax levy falls below the state mandated tax cap, which has been the case for the district levy since the tax cap was established in 2011.
"The state aid number is higher than last year's state aid number," she said. "That small amount of state aid lowered our property taxes and PILOT amount just enough to be under the tax cap by $1,790. So a little more of a cushion than the $99 I talked about at our last meeting. Our levy will be a change (increase) of 2.84%."
While Lansing suffered cuts in 2012 with the establishment of the tax cap, the district has recovered, even adding positions in recent years to enhance programming. The tax cap was made permanent when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the $175 billion budget 2019-20 state budget early on April 1. Heath highlighted some of the changes that will impact the Lansing district.
"Some really important things: the tax cap is now permanent," she said. "There were no changes made to it at this time. NYSBA and ASBA, which is school business officials, are still pushing for some modifications to the tax cap to allow for BOCES capital project funding, and changing the percentage to include PILOT agreements. As those fluctuate those are not included in the exclusions."
She said another change that will help the district is that school districts are now allowed to establish and maintain a Teacher's Retirement Reserve, which will relieve some pressure on taxpayers as the cost of teacher benefits go up.
"Right now we only have an ERS (Employees Retirement System) reserve. Now we're allowed to have a TRS (Teacher Retirement System) reserve, which will be a sub-fund of the ERS Reserve," Heath said. "There are requirements on what you can fund, and how much. there is specific language that has to be approved by the Board. Right now you can put in up to 2% of teachers' salaries based on the previous year's salaries, with a limit of 10% total. We'll be taking a look at that in the future so we can have an ERS reserve and a TRS reserve to help balance any future increases in TRS rates. Right now they've been pretty stable, but we don't anticipate that will be the future."
heath told board members that an unfunded mandate now requires school districts to allow three paid hours on every election day, not just the one in November, so they can leave their classrooms to vote.
"It used to be two hours," she said. "Now it's up to three hours, so you are aware of that and what the impact might be on finding substitutes on election day."
The $30,794,630 budget represents an increase of 2.42% ($727,450), most of which she said is to maintain the current level of staffing and programs. The current budget shifts an ENL (English as a New Language) teacher and the Director of Curriculum from BOCES to in-house. It adds an Elementary School Special Education Classroom and Instructional Staff. Otherwise it maintains the current staffing and structure and student supplies the district purchases.
Heath said that 9.79% of the budget is spent on administration, 14.65% on capital, and 75.56% on program.
"The largest part of our budget is the program component," she said. "That's the instruction of our students. That includes teachers, all the instructional needs and programs, people, transportation. It includes programs that geared toward the whole student, so athletics, clubs, and health services are included here. This is the majority of our budget, as it should be, and that has also increased."
With Monday's vote the final budget will be put to school district voters on May 22. Voters will also elect three Board Of Education members on that ballot.