Proposed C-R budget carries 4.6 percent tax increase


By Jim Poole

In one of their toughest decisions in recent years, Cobleskill-Richmondville school board members adopted a $41.6 million budget for 2018-19 in a special meeting Tuesday morning.
The decision was difficult because the proposed budget carries a tax-levy increase of 4.6 percent––higher than the past three years but far less than C-R is allowed under the law.
The problem for the district next year is state aid. Aid for C-R in the new state budget is rising by $521,000 next year.
Although that sounds like good news, C-R is also losing about $1.5 million in state building aid. The district is still paying off a 2003 building project, but state aid that would pay that bill ends this year.
In order to avoid massive cuts in 2011, C-R that year refinanced the project debt. The refinancing meant state aid wouldn’t cover the final three years of debt.
The first no-aid year for the debt is 2018-19.
Without that building aid, C-R faces a net loss in state aid of $926,000––even with an increase in aid in the new state budget.
“We knew this was coming, and we’ve been planning for it,” said school board President Bruce Tryon. “It’s not a surprise.”
Superintendent Carl Mummenthey agreed, noting that the district is using fund balance––savings––and reserves to lessen the tax impact.
“We’ve earmarked money for this purpose,” Mr. Mummenthey said. “If we hadn’t, we’d be laying off scores of people. Had we not planned, the cuts would have been catastrophic.”
Also, he added, C-R has fund balance to apply for the next two years when there’s no state building aid.
The increase in the tax levy also helps cover the cost. C-R’s Citizens Budget Committee, made up of parents, retirees and business people, “overwhelmingly” supported the increase, Mr. Mummenthey said.
C-R’s tax levy increases the past three years have been .6 percent, .27 and 1.99. Including next year’s projected 4.6 increase, the average increase for four years is 1.865 percent, Mr. Mummenthey said.
That’s less than the state’s tax-levy cap, which is touted as being two percent.
A variety of factors determine a district’s tax-levy cap, and C-R’s state-mandated cap for next year is 11 percent.
In other words, the projected 4.6-percent levy increase is less than half what C-R could raise the levy by.
Even though the budget does eliminate a few positions by attrition––openings that won’t be filled rather than layoffs––it doesn’t cut programs for students.
“We still have a robust high school program and athletics and co-curricular activities for students,” Mr. Mummenthey said.
“Maintaining programs is remarkable when we’re dealing with a little less than a $1 million loss in aid.”
But if residents reject the budget in voting May 15, there will be cuts before a second vote, Mr. Mummenthey added.
“If there has to be a re-vote, there will definitely be a loss of staff and programming,” he said.