2018-19 Budget Questions & Answers

What is the budget proposal for next year?

On Tuesday, May 15, Stillwater Central School District residents will head to the polls to vote on a proposed $24,842,337 budget for the 2018-19 school year. The spending plan preserves all existing district programs.

If voters approve the spending plan, the projected tax levy—the total amount of money a school district can raise through property taxes— would increase by 3.42 percent. This increase is below Stillwater’s maximum allowable tax levy increase as determined by the state’s tax levy “cap” formula.

What’s different in the proposed budget?

The 2018-19 budget proposal increases spending by $312,387, or 1.27 percent, over the current year. Much of that increase is driven by rising costs associated with salaries, employee pensions and benefits, as well as state and federal mandated programs and services. The proposed also budget includes the addition of a full-time school resource officer and the addition of after-school STEAM enrichment programs at the elementary school.

How would the proposed budget affect my taxes?

While the tax levy would increase by $352,661 next year, total property assessments within the district are also growing, meaning there are more properties across which to distribute the tax levy.

So, while the tax levy is increasing 3.42 percent, there are more taxpayers sharing in that cost. Actual tax rates are set in August. These rates are based on final property assessments (provided by each town) and equalization rates for each town, which are provided by the state Office of Real Property Services.

This process and the growth in the tax base mean that just because the tax levy is proposed to increase 3.42 percent, individual property owners will not necessarily see their tax bills increase by that rate.

What is the difference between the tax levy and tax rate?

The tax levy is the total amount of money a school district raises in taxes each year from all property owners in the district. Tax rates are calculated by dividing the total amount of the levy by the total taxable assessed value in a community. Tax rates are affected by changes in both municipal assessments and state equalization rates, which are determined in the summer. The tax rate is used to calculate each individual property tax bill.

What is a fund balance and how does it impact the budget?

A fund balance is created when a district is able to generate a surplus by receiving more revenue than expected and/or by spending less than the amount budgeted. As part of the proposed 2018-19 budget, Stillwater is planning to allocate $750,000 from its unrestricted fund balance, as allowed over time, to help mitigate the tax impact on district residents in the coming year.

It is important to note that fund balance is not a guaranteed portion of any school district’s budget – it can eventually level off or even run out. As such, the use of fund balance is not a reliable long-term solution to support school funding or to lower taxes.

How does the GlobalFoundries PILOT affect the district’s budget?

The Global Foundries PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) continues to provide a guaranteed source of revenue for the district. The district will receive $2,010,293 through the PILOT in 2018-19. Although this is a decrease from the current year based on the terms of the agreement, the PILOT continues to provide revenue that supports programs and services for students.

Why is there a vote for the Stillwater Public Library on the ballot?

On May 15, residents will vote on a separate proposition to approve the Stillwater Public Library budget and elect library trustees. The library is seeking to increase its budget from $222,495 in 2017-18 to $269,479 in 2018-19, due to the addition of a full-time employee. This money will be collected by the district and then forwarded to the library. The library has the same service boundary as the school district, however the Stillwater Public Library is not governed by the district.

What happens if the budget is not approved?

Under New York state law, if the proposed budget is defeated by voters, the board has three options: present the same budget a second time, present a revised budget or adopt a contingent budget. If the budget is defeated a second time, the board must adopt a contingent budget.

Under a contingent budget, a district can levy a tax no greater than that of the prior budget year—a zero percent increase. In other words, Stillwater would have to eliminate the $352,661 tax levy increase included in the budget proposal by finding additional revenues, making additional reductions and/or by allocating more fund balance.

What else will be on the ballot on May 15?

Building maintenance

On May 15, there will be two propositions on the ballot related to maintenance improvements. The first will be to establish a capital reserve fund of $100,000 to cover the cost of repairs to the flooring at the elementary school. The second proposition will be to expend the $100,000 in the capital reserve fund. This project is a continuation of the district’s long-range plan to improve and maintain its facilities. This $100,000 is accounted for in the district budget annually, and therefore does not represent additional spending beyond the proposed budget.

The district would receive state aid reimbursement for nearly 84 percent of the cost of the project.

Establish $750k capital reserve fund

On May 15, Stillwater Central School District voters will decide on the creation of a $750,000 capital reserve fund, which will allow for the future replacement of the turf field. The field was installed in 2009.

This proposition represents advance planning on the part of the district. The reserve will be funded by money from the general fund that may be unspent at the end of this year and/or future years as it is available. In this way, the replacement of the turf field can be accomplished with money that voters have already authorized the district to spend.

Board election

Along with the budget vote on Tuesday, May 15, the district will hold its annual board of education election.

Terms currently held by Tim Hems, Jon Mueller and Michael Toleman will expire on June 30, 2018. As a result, there are three open seats on the board, each with a three-year team beginning July 1, 2018 and ending June 30, 2021.

The district has received only two petitions, from Tim Hems and Jon Mueller, for the three available seats. This means that their names will be the only names on the May 15 ballot. However, pursuant to education law, any votes for write-in candidates on the day of the vote will be counted. The qualified resident who receives the most valid write-in votes will win the available seat on the board. If there are no write-in votes, state law allows the current board members to appoint qualified residents to fill the vacancies.

When and where do I vote on the 2018-19 school budget?

Residents can vote on the school district budget on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. in the old Stillwater Middle School Gym.

Information on absentee ballots:

Absentee ballots are available for registered voters who meet the requirements for absentee voting. To receive an absentee ballot by mail, you must submit a completed application at least seven (7) days before the election or pick it up in person at the district office. Call Board Clerk Mary Sgambati at 373-6100, ext. 30022, for assistance.