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Sweet Home board adopts $68.1 million budget

The Sweet Home School Board on Tuesday adopted a tentative budget of $68.1 million that would increase taxes less than the state’s local tax levy cap.

The state’s Real Property Tax Cap Law of 2011 caps the total amount of school funding to be raised through the property tax levy at 2 percent or at the rate of inflation, whichever is less. However, there are some exclusions in the law that allow the local tax levy to rise above 2 percent.

“Our tax levy cap is approximately $1,681,000, or a 4.45 percent increase,” said Robert McDow, district director of finance and plant services, during a budget presentation at Tuesday’s regular business meeting.

“We are not going up to 4.45 percent. We’re actually proposing an increase of 3.58 percent, or approximately $1,338,000,” McDow added.

The overall budget would increase by about $833,000, or about 1.23 percent over the current year’s $67.3 million budget. McDow noted that while the district will receive a $500,000, or 3.5 percent, increase in state aid, the district will also receive $790,000 less in building aid for the coming school year.

Health care premiums are expected to rise by 7 percent next year, and there are significant increases in the district’s contribution toward retirements.

The tax rate on a $120,000 assessed home in Amherst is expected to rise 51 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to $14.99 per $1,000, or an annual tax bill of $1,349. The tax rate on a home assessed at $56,400 in the Town of Tonawanda would increase $1.08 per $1,000 of assessed value to $31.85 per $1,000, or annual tax bill of $1,350.

McDow said his projections come with a couple of assumptions, which are that the equalization rates in both Amherst and the Town of Tonawanda are held constant with what they are this year.

“The most important thing I want to specify is that our assessed values for 2013-2014 are the same assessed values that we have currently. There will be some changes coming in July, but I don’t know those numbers now, and I’m not going to forecast any increases or decreases, because I haven’t received any information from either town that I can concretely base our numbers on. So I’m going with the status quo this year as compared to next, which will result in about a $46 annual increase in our overall tax bill for both townships,” McDow said

The actual tax rate is set in August. McDow anticipates the actual tax increase will come in lower than $46.

The public is scheduled to vote on the budget from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 21 at the Vergils Community Center at Sweet Home High School. A second proposition on the ballot will be permission for the board to purchase four 65-passenger school buses for a total of $442,000. There is one open seat on the seven-member School Board. Incumbent Scott M. Johnson is seeking another five-year term on the board.