OCS contingency to offset tax hike

By Jay Braman Jr.
Thanks to an unused $5.5 million contingency fund, property owners in the Onteora School District may see a zero percent tax increase again this year.

The money was put aside in the event that City of New York, which owns the Ashokan Reservoir and is the district’s largest taxpayer, was victorious in a tax-assessment challenge mounted in the Town of Olive.

A settlement was reached and district officials are planning on using up to $3 million of the fund to offset property taxes in the 2013-14 school year.

A recent draft of the proposed school budget calls for a 2.3 percent jump in the tax levy. School officials, at present, plan to use only $2 million of the tax challenge fund but District Superintendent Phyllis Spiegel McGill said this month that an extra $1 million would remove the 2.3 percent jump entirely.

The proposed budget calls for $50,580,332 in spending.
The latest figures released by the district show total enrollment dropping from this school year’s 1,408 students down to 1,364 for the 2013-14 school year.
The district is also expected to lose $547,818 in state aid next school year.

Spending options
Should the district choose to use $3 million to eliminate the tax increase, Onteora would still have another $2.5 million left to offset the tax levy for the 2014-15 school year.

Under the current budget plan, each one percent increase in the tax levy is worth $402,961.
The budget also calls for eliminating several positions including a school psychologist, a social worker, one elementary school teacher, two guidance counselors, and one custodian.

On Tuesday, March 19 the district’s superintendent will present the school board with another draft of the recommended budget for review and comment. That will take place at 6 p.m. at the Woodstock Elementary School. That meeting is open to the public.