Voters approve $108M school budget

Voters in the Harrison Central School District passed its $108 million budget with 71 percent of all votes cast on May 21. As a result, tax bills will increase by 3.7 percent next year.

The 2013-2014 budget comes with no reduction to class size and no program cuts, but necessitates minimal layoffs to come in under the state-mandated 2 percent tax levy cap. According to unofficial tallies, 1,385 residents voted “yes” and 553 voted against the budget.

“We have consistently tried to meet our dual commitment of providing a comprehensive education while being responsible to our taxpayers,” Schools Superintendent Louis Wool said on Wednesday regarding the results. “The Board of Education would like to thank our residents, and express our profound appreciation for the support of our students that came from every corner and neighborhood of the community.”

The spending plan marks the second time in history that the budget passed in the polls of each of the four voting districts in Harrison.

After a series of reductions totaling more than $2.25 million, the district approved a $3.79 million increase in spending from last year for a budget-to-budget increase of 3.6 percent. Reductions included decreases in certiorari and capital budget lines, decreases in social security, unemployment, contractual services, the cost of fuel and several other cuts for smaller budget line items.

By eliminating vacant positions through attrition and through the implementation of a teacher retirement incentive, the district was able to minimize the need for layoffs in the budget, with plans to cut only one to two positions.

First appeared in the May 24, 2013 edition of The Harrison Report.

The school-spending plan for 2013-2014 comes in .81 percent under the calculated cap, or a 3.47 percent increase in the overall tax levy. This equates to an estimated tax rate increase of $25.16 per $1,000 of real property value, or 3.7 percent.

Using a calculation provided by the state, which determines the allowable tax levy limit, the school district could have potentially increased the levy as much as 4.28 percent. However, by allocating less for local revenue, state employee pension reserves, certiorari reserves, compensation reserves and the appropriated fund balance, school officials were able to provide a $4.4 million reduction to taxpayers.

School board elections were a quiet affair for yet another year, with two unopposed races for the Board of Education’s two open seats. Board of Education Trustee Jason Schechter chose not to seek re-election.

Therefore, running uncontested, newcomer Rachel Estroff won in her bid for Schechter’s seat, garnering 857 votes.

“[The school board], and my predecessors, have done an excellent job in ensuring the district is on sound academic and financial footing,” Estroff said in an email following the results. “All school districts have big challenges ahead, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to tackle them.”

With six years of experience on the board, Board of Education Vice President Abby Mendelsohn won her third consecutive election on Tuesday. First elected to office in 2007, Mendelsohn will continue her role as board vice president after securing an uncontested victory.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the community for another three years, and I am grateful to the community for its continued support,” Mendelsohn said. “I look forward to continuing to work with my board colleagues to preserve the district’s excellent educational programs.”

Mendelsohn received a total of 1,312 votes, almost as many as those supporting the school budget. Both Mendelsohn and Estroff were elected to three-year terms.

“This budget is driven by our education priorities and is responsive to the concerns of taxpayers,” Mendelsohn said. “Harrison voters came out to support quality education and responsible financial planning in the face of some serious challenges. I am grateful to each and every voter for supporting the children of our district.”



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