by Dave Warner

The Little Falls City School District presented the 2021-2022 School Budget to voters during a Zoom conference call on Tuesday night.

The annual budget vote for qualified voters will be held on May 18th, 2021 between the hours of 12:00 pm and 9:00 pm in the new multi-purpose room on the east side of the high school/middle school complex.

Two commissioners of the Board of Education are up for a three-year term, and there are three propositions on the ballot.

Proposition One – School Budget Vote

RESOLVED that the budget for the Little Falls City School District in the County of Herkimer in the State of New York, for the fiscal year commencing July 1, 2021, and ending June 30, 2022, as presented by the Board of Education, is hereby approved and adopted; and the required funds, therefore, are hereby apportioned and the necessary real property taxes required shall be raised by a tax on the taxable property in said District to be levied and collected by law.

The tax percentage increase is 0.97%, going from $8,959,487.00 to $9,046,364.00, which is a change of $86,877.00.

The sharp increase in the debt service area is due to payments for the capital project in the amount of $2,295,026.00, with anticipated building aid in the amount of $2,178,529. This leaves a local share of about $116,496. According to the District, this explains the sharp increase in the expenditure, but only a small increase in taxes.

Proposition Two – Bus Purchase

Shall the Little Falls City School District purchase a new 65 passenger school bus for use by the District for the sum not to exceed $135,220.00 to be paid for by the District through the issuance of a five (5) year Statutory Installment Bond, pursuant to the provisions of the Education Law of the State of New York?

Proposition Three – Library

Shall the Little Falls City Public Library be authorized to increase its Real Property Tax Levy from $90,890 to $92,008?

Dr. Keith T. Levatino, Superintendent of Schools explained, “When we develop the budget, it’s not just about money, it’s goals for the school district – academic, arts, athletics, technology and everything that goes into running the school and servicing kids and the district.”

One of the key aspects of the budget proposal was to be ready for any additional support or remediation that students might need after being virtual. Levatino stated, “there were times when we were fully virtual, there were times when we were hybrid, there were times when we were in person, but either way, no matter what a great job any school district did, a lot of kids are at risk because it wasn’t full session.”

He said that throughout the crisis, they have been able to maintain full staffing and all existing programs. “Kids came back to what they had before they went virtual. Nothing was eliminated and they came back to all of their programs.”

The 20% budget cuts that the state had told the district to expect have been restored to the budget and the District has been told that they can expect an 8% increase in state aid this year as compared to the 2020/2021 school year.

Levatino said that the pandemic has resulted in very low consumer price index increases. “Taxpayers are eligible now for STAR because we are below the tax cap.”

After allowances for a fluctuation in assessment valuation, a house with a $75,000 assessed value and basic STAR should see an approximate increase of $17 for the year.

If the budget doesn’t pass, there are two options available for the Board of Education.

  1. It can simply implement a contingent budget which caps the levy at the prior year’s amount (0% increase in discretionary areas). The District would need to make $104,655 in program and staffing cuts.
  2. Conduct a second budget vote with or without changes.

If the budget is defeated a second time, the Board of Education MUST adopt a contingent budget.

If you have any questions regarding the proposed 2021-2022 budget, please contact Dr. Keith Levatino or Mr. Ashraf Allam at 315-823-1470.

Voters must be a citizen of the United States, be at least 18 years of age, be a resident of the district for at least 30 days preceding the budget vote (Home ownership is not sufficient. Must be a permanent resident), and not otherwise prohibited from voting (ex., mentally incompetent or convicted felon).