Massena school officials waiting to hear final state aid numbers before deciding on 2020-21 tax level
Saturday, February 15, 2020 - 8:39 am

BY ANDY GARDNER

North Country This Week

MASSENA -- Superintendent Pat Brady at the Thursday, Feb. 13 Board of Education meeting unveiled a $57.1 million budget with a gap of about $2.36 million.

Their property tax cap for 2020-21 is estimated around 3.91%. The district says this would raise $15,110,679 in property taxes, $568,373 more than 2019-20, if the board decides to increase taxes by the full 3.91%.

However, Brady says that's just a limit and there is no definitive hike yet.

"We're not looking at that type of increase. That's what the cap for us would be," he said.

Board of Education member Loren Fountaine said they have been using fund balance to offset their gap, but that's not a sustainable strategy.

"We're in financially ok shape, but if you look at the chart Mr. Brady had up, every year we're dipping into our reserves. Not a long-term solution ... we eventually need to turn that into the black," he said.

Brady said under the governor's budget shows an increase in aid, but a $6.1 billion deficit means uncertainty as to how the final state spending plan will treat Massena Central.

"As state aid has gone up, we've been able to keep the pressure off the local tax base. We'll have to see how that goes this year," he said.

"Hard to tell this year with a budget deficit, but over the last three years typically there's been a $200 million across the state between what the governor proposes and what the state legislature comes out with ... would be an increase for us," Brady said.

Fountaine later in the meeting said he believes that a proposition in the news recently to split New York into two states would ultimately harm Massena Central.

"80% of our taxes come from New York City and the suburban areas around. 70% of our budget comes from state aid," he said. "Without New York City and those counties, really, we would be sunk. I'm not trying to make a political statement. A lot of talks about two states going around. Massena Central School District would be done without that tax base."

A presentation on the proposed budget can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2UP7SZq.