Thursday, December 18, 2014

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State budget cap issues remain in this year's school budget voting

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: State budget cap issues remain in this year's school budget voting
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Past years have brought very loud battles over school tax increases and proposals for cuts in school spending. As the latest round of budget votes took place, Bill Carey reports the leader of a school districts' group says the scene may be quieter, but not necessarily more stable.

EAST SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- There were few signs of taxpayer revolt as people went to the polls to decide school budgets. In virtually every district across the state, districts held down tax increases to conform to a 2 percent state tax cap.

Some voters like the idea.

"We can't just keep raising taxes. Too much, but they have to raise some," said Lois Koenig, a voter.

Although there is a growing sense, even among voters, that eventually the districts will have to do more than 2 percent.

"At the end of the day, it's third grade math. It's about costs versus revenues," said CNY School Boards Association Executive Director Charles Borgognoni.

Charles Borgognoni says the state played its hand, well. Proposing rebates to property owners this fall, but only if their local governments and schools kept taxes under the cap. Other local government officials agree.

"It's political rhetoric. A feel good, so you're going to get a check in the mail, type of thing and it's really restraining everybody. Local governments as well as our school districts," said Minoa Mayor Dick Donovan.

"The whole property tax freeze issue that was put together this year really does very little to benefit communities up in our neck of the woods. I think that you'll see that tax cap rebate checks will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 to $50 per household in our community. And I think it's going to be more $15 than it's going to be $50," said Borgognoni.

Borgognoni says the districts he represents have run out of options.

"You can only fire a worker once. Once you've spent up all of your savings account or your reserves, they don't exist anymore. At a certain point, you've run out of non-state mandated programs that you can cut or reduce," said Borgognoni.

He says what will follow will be defaults programmatic, with schools unable to meet state criteria or fiscal; unable to pay their bills. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP