We’ve all heard about the state’s two percent property tax cap when it comes to school budgets, but did you know it doesn't have to be right at two percent? The state actually uses an eight-step formula to determine each district's cap, considering factors like pension costs and fluxes in the tax base. But as our Megan Cruz tells us, despite the different caps, different school districts are facing the same dilemmas.
ALBANY COUNTY, N.Y. -- "Extremely frustrating," said Averill Park Interim Superintendent Michael Marcelle.
“Controversial," said Tim Kremer, Executive Director of the New York State School Board Association.
"Detrimental," said Dr. Thomas Douglas, Bethlehem Central School District's Superintendent.
They're all describing this year's school budget proposals, numbers which will be up for a vote Tuesday.
“You've got the tax levy cap, you've got a decrease in state aid, you've got increased costs, and you've got unfunded mandates," said Marcelle. "It's what we call in the business a perfect storm.”
A perfect storm, whose path some say is easy to forecast.
“You’re going to have kids that are going to be not prepared for college and careers when they get out of high school," said Kremer.
To minimize the damage, school districts across the state are trying to find the fine line between staying under the cap and preserving a quality education. At the Bethlehem Central School District, administrators say there’s no way.
“We're reducing most of our core academic programs as well as special academic programs with the reduction of classes," said Douglas.
He also says they’ve closed a school, frozen salaries, used all of their reserved funds, and are proposing that 57 positions be cut. Despite that, they're still above their respective 2.94 percent cap, at 3.99 percent.
Kremer says Bethlehem is one of about 50 districts statewide proposing to exceed the cap.
“There's not many things more that school districts can do. It's whether or not we want to dismantle education," said Douglas.
Over at the Averill Park Central School District, its superintendent feels the same way.
“In our middle school and high school, we're looking at cuts across the board, whether it's foreign language, English, math, science, art, music," said Marcelle.
Sports is also taking a hit, and 34 jobs are slated to be cut. However, they were able to cut enough to get them right at their cap, at 3.95 percent.
Both superintendents are hoping their budgets pass, because if they don’t, it’ll just mean further cuts.
"And can you do that?" asked the reporter.
"Without devastating program? No," said Marcelle.
For times and locations for these two votes, and for the other area districts, visit their respective school websites.