Decision day for school budgets in New York State

By Matt Porter

May 20, 2014 Updated May 20, 2014 at 6:57 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Across New York State, voters will decide whether or not to approve school budgets, many will include small tax increases.

The New York State Association of School Budget Officers reports statewide taxes will increase by 1.8 percent on average for school district budgets.

The group said the average is the lowest in the last six years.

Part of the reason may be school districts are unwilling to go over the tax levy cap set by the state because some taxpayers will be eligible for a rebate in the amount of the tax increase if school's remain under the cap.

Don Phillips, a former teacher at Chenango Forks High School, said he's okay with the roughly five percent increase in taxes because it will keep school programs intact.

"It's tough for me because I'm a senior, I'm going to be 70 on Friday," Phillips said. "I know it's tough for their budgets, but the kids deserve the best they can get."

In the Owego-Apalachin School District where 21 jobs are being eliminated either through attrition or layoffs, Apalachin resident Molly Renfro said New Yorkers can't afford not to approve new budgets.

"Our children have to have an education," Renfro said. "We can't let them not have the opportunity that we had when we were children."

The NYS Association of School Budget Officials did report district fund balances were reduced by another nine percent from last year.

Fund balances are reserve funds school districts can use to make up for any deficits and officials say schools need to find a way to meet budget lines without continuing to withdraw from fund balances each year.

The prospect of increasing state aid has some districts hopeful tax increases, fund balance withdrawals, and program cuts will continue to decrease.

Most polling places will close at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

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