Onteora budget proposal will need some trimming

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

The 2018/19 preliminary Onteora district budget was unveiled, revealing that school officials will have their work cut out for them in trying to keep the budget within the allowable tax cap. At the January 9 meeting of the Onteora Central School District Board of Education, Assistant Superintendent for Business Monica LaClair presented a proposed rollover budget increase of 4.13 percent or $2.2 million. This implies that the 2016/17 budget of $54.3 million would increase to $56.5 million. On the tax levy side, it projects to a 3.3 percent increase, above Governor Andrew Cuomo Tax Cap levy maximum of two-percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lowest. In recent years, the CPI has been hovering around one-percent. Because past budgets have come in under the tax cap levy, Onteora district may have a bit of wiggle room in carry over. However costs in retirement and health care for employees continue to increase. The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) is projecting around a one-percent increase in district costs. LaClair said, “This will be the first time in three years, understanding that a one percent increase in TRS would be approximately $200,000.” Trustee Rob Kurnit was perplexed. “It is my understanding that TRS has huge investments in the stock market and right now it’s going bonkers,” Kurnit said. “If that’s the case why are you projecting there will be an increase?”

LaClair pointed out that, “they have changed their formula requiring an increase.” In a separate email, she explained. “The reason for the increase for next year is actuarial assumptions are lowering the expected rate of return TRS from 7.5 percent to 7.25 percent, which implies they are expecting a decrease in expected future investments,” she wrote. Since it’s considered a benefit, taxpayers will pick up the bill. She is also projecting that premiums for employee health insurance or DEHIC, may increase by possibly 12 percent. LaClair does not foresee any boost in state aid and noted the impending state budget release.