school_aerial3The Lansing Board Of Education (BOE) unanimously approved a $27,820,000 budget Monday for the 2014-15 school year.  The budget represents a 4.83% increase over the current budget, driven by a combination of spiraling employee and retirement benefit costs, plus a loss of revenue from the Cayuga Power Plant and state aid.  For owners of a $200,000 house it will mean a $143 increase in school taxes, but BOE President Glenn Swanson says that property taxpayers in districts who keep the tax levy increase below the state tax cap will receive a rebate, meaning that that homeowner will receive a check from the State for $143 later in the year.

"The good news for Lansing is we're planning to be under the tax cap," he said.  "Around election day you get a check back."

Lansing's tax levy cap is calculated at 4.81% this year.  The actual rise in the proposed budget is 4.64%, which puts Lansing in compliance with the state cap, making taxpayers eligible for a rebate from the State.  With a $16,540,000 tax levy and $1,755,000 from PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of taxes) agreements, the total levy will be $18,295,000.

Between 2010 and 2015 the loss of power plant value is a hundred million dollars, which is the equivalent of 500 $200,000 homes leaving the district.  Property taxpayers have to pick up the slack to make up for that revenue loss, which amounts to a $2 million tax levy increase.  Between 2011 and 2015 losses due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) are $5,760,000, which comes to $5,014 less in state aid per student in the Lansing district.

Superintendent Chris Pettograsso listed a large number of unfunded mandates that the district must fund for common core training and implementation, administrative training and professional development, the annual performance review,and materials and supplies such as data input systems, increased technology, and textbooks.  Common core implementation has required much more aggressive text book replacement than has been implemented in the past.

That means that for Lansing taxpayers there will effectively be no increase in school taxes.  That is in contrast to a difficult $113.7 million budget proposal the Ithaca Board Of Education is faced with that would exceed the tax levy cap, making Ithaca taxpayers ineligible for a rebate even if the required 60% of voters pass the budget.

Pettograsso says that enrollment is expected to rise in incoming classes.  Class size had come down from 100 or more to 66 in this year's sixth grade and 77 in second grade.  Next year's first grade is projected at 94 students, with Kindergarten currently expecting 87.

Swanson noted that judicious spending has helped preserve reserves longer than expected.  While that money is expected to be gone in a few years, for now there is some money to keep taxes from rising faster.

"Five years ago we had a DRIP plan.  Fortunately we've been able to drip at a slower rate so we have more money, which is helping us now."

"I think this really highlights your incessant drive to take costs out that have the least impact to students and education," board member Tom Robinson told Business Administrator Mary June King.  "It's really fantastic."

The district will be asking voters to approve the budget and two other items on May 20th.  A second proposition will be to authorize the purchase of two new school busses and a large van.  The third will be to authorize about $4 million for a capital project to build three new septic systems to replace failing ones.

Swanson and Robinson have announced they are running for another term in May.  Tony Lombardo's term also ends this year.  He has said he is thinking about running.  Additional candidates have not announced yet.  A 'Meet The Candidates' event is scheduled for 6pm on May 12.