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Despite aid figures, Forestville stays at no tax increase

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Forestville Superintendent Dr. John O’Connor stated the District was surprised by how low the Governor’s foundation aid figures were in her State Budget.

FORESTVILLE — Despite Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal resulting in state aid figures much lower than the Forestville Central School District anticipated to receive, the District is still planning to not raise taxes at all for the upcoming school year’s budget.

According to Business Administrator Kerrie Pelletter, the District will receive approximately $75,000 less in foundation aid than estimated.

“We didn’t expect the governor’s proposal would be that much less,” Superintendent Dr. John O’Connor said.

Because of the District’s excessive unassigned fund balance, the decrease in aid is being met with more money allocated from the District’s unassigned funds. Approximately $550,000 of unassigned fund balance will be utilized to balance the upcoming year’s budget. As of June 30, 2023, the district maintained a total fund balance of $6,917,906, with 28% of that balance – amounting to over $1.9 million – as unassigned fund balance.

Real property tax laws in New York state allow for districts to hold 4% of the following year’s budget in unappropriated fund balance. Districts are often cited for surpassing the 4% limit, while auditors often suggest 4% as the minimum a district should maintain.

The 2024-25 budget now sits at $14,160,518, which is an increase of $516,671 from the current year’s final budget. The 3.8% increase is driven by an increase in wages of $255,873 and a debt service increase of $380,759. The initial budget proposal from a month prior was at $14,072,596, which is a 3.1% increase from 2023-24.

Because of Forestville’s unassigned fund balance of nearly $2 million, the District opted for a 0% tax levy increase again, just as it did a year ago. According to its tax cap calculation formula, the District had the ability to raise the tax levy by 5.25%, amounting to an additional $223,450 for the District, but opted instead to allocate the fund balance to keep taxes down.

“Due to the fund balance, we believe we can responsibly leave the levy flat, while still meeting the instructional initiatives of our District,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor also later stated that after a recent capital project meeting, the District hopes the scope of an upcoming project can include “most of what we have listed.”

Armed with a capital reserve account of approximately $2.2 million, the district is eyeing a major capital project. A project of close to $12 million would create no additional tax impact to the community. The District will hold another meeting in the coming weeks to narrow its focus for the upcoming project.

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