It's just one week until schools will learn what their classrooms will look like next year. Community members will head to the polls to vote on school district budgets May 15th. And in a tough financial year, many districts are thinking outside the box. Our Katie Gibas tells us about Tully's unique approach that gives voters more control over their taxes.
TULLY, N.Y. -- For taxpayers, even just the thought of any additional expense is tough to bare. But with dwindling state aid, increasing unfunded mandates and skyrocketing pension costs, many school districts have no choice but to hike taxes.
"We're not necessarily earning more. Our expenses are bigger than they've ever been. And then you look at this and it's like, ‘Oh no. How can we do this too?’" said Susan Ball, a Tully parent.
That's why officials at Tully Central Schools are letting voters decide just how much they're willing to pay. The budget itself calls for three layoffs and a 4.77 percent tax increase. But district officials listed three other propositions taxpayers can vote on, including certain educational programs, extra curriculars and a bus purchase. If all are approved, the total tax rate would be 7.63 percent or $136 on a $100,000 home.
District officials say because of the tax cap, this was their only option to continue supporting students at the present levels.
"What we heard from our community forums was 'Give us the opportunity to support our programs,’ so that has been the focus on this budget preparation processes is that we're going to give the community the opportunity to vote on programs," said Tiffany Nesbitt, the Tully School Business Administrator.
"This was actually a creative way to go about trying to save some of the critical programs that would have been in jeopardy otherwise," said Ball.
If the budget fails May 15th, the board can put another budget out for a vote within two weeks or adopt a contingency budget.
Community members who were at the public forum say those who live in Tully have always been supportive of their schools, so they anticipate that they'll once again pass the school budget.
"They care about the kids, so I'm hoping that that's how the people will go out and vote and care about the kids. We're doing more with less. Hopefully they'll see the need for that. We want to have exceptional students," said Ball.
All the district's propositions, including the full budget will have to be passed by a super majority of 60 percent of the voters.
"It's a very scary situation. But again, I have faith in the community. And I'm hoping that the faith that the board has will follow through and we won't have to worry about it this year anyway," said Denise Cardamone, a Tully Board of Education member.
The public vote is May 15th. If the budget fails, the board can put another budget out for a vote within two weeks or adopt a contingency budget.