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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Addison considers next move after school budget defeat

  • Still reeling from the narrow defeat of its budget proposal last week, the Addison school board will meet Tuesday to decide what's next.
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  • Still reeling from the narrow defeat of its budget proposal last week, the Addison school board will meet Tuesday to decide what’s next.
    The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the cafe at Addison High School, and the top priority will be the budget.
    The district’s $27 million budget proposal for the upcoming school year was defeated by a margin of 211 to 202. It included a 3.24 percent increase in spending, and a 2 percent increase in the property tax levy.
    “We’re not used to this,” said Addison Superintendent Joe DioGuardi. “Our budgets have passed for the last twenty-something years on the first try, so this is unfamiliar territory for us.”
    Under state law, Addison now has three options.
    The district can put the same budget up for another vote on June 17, hoping more “yes” voters turn out.
    It can put a revised proposal, likely with a smaller tax hike, up for another vote on June 17.
    Or, it can go straight to a contingency budget, which would have a zero percent increase in the tax levy. In Addison’s case, that would mean cutting nearly $400,000 or pulling from reserves.
    If the budget fails again on June 17, Addison would have no choice but to adopt a contingency budget.
    The school board will make the final call, but DioGuardi favors trimming the budget and trying again in June.
    “At this point, we’re not proposing any program or staff cuts,” he said. “We’re hoping we don’t need to go there. Certainly on a revote we wouldn’t. If we have to go to contingency, we’re not sure.”
    Addison school officials have been scratching their heads, trying to figure out exactly why the budget was shot down.
    One possible factor, DioGuardi said, is that five towns in the Addison school district recently did a property revaluation. Since assessments are tied to school taxes, there could have been a backlash, he said.
    Lucinda Sutton, Addison’s school board president, agreed.
    “I think the assessment coming out right before the vote had a pretty big impact,” Sutton said. “When your assessment goes up, you know your school taxes are going to go up also, so I think the timing on that was horrible.”
    Sutton also thinks voters may have believed Addison, which sought a 2 percent tax increase, was going for the maximum allowed under the state cap.
    In reality, under the state’s tax cap formula, the district would have been allowed to raise taxes up to 6.3 percent this year without needing a 60 percent “supermajority,” so the tax hike was well under the cap.
    Page 2 of 2 - Sutton says she also favors tweaking the budget and trying again on June 17.
    DioGuardi says the budget’s defeat last week was especially puzzling, since voters in the Addison school district have supported several major capital projects in recent years, including one that will break ground this spring. It includes a new middle school wing at the main campus, as well as major upgrades at Tuscarora Elementary and the athletic complex.
    Should the school board decide to go for a re-vote in June, DioGuardi says the focus will be on letting residents know where their tax dollars are going and “all the great things doing on the district.”
    “We’re trying to balance the needs of the students - what they need for 21st century skills and careers - with what our taxpayers can afford,” he said.
    According to the New York State School Boards Association, more than 98 percent of school budgets were approved statewide.

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