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Strained Budget Has Irvington Schools Debating Tax Cap Override

Irvington school board members say they're considering raising taxes above the tax cap next year.
Irvington school board members say they're considering raising taxes above the tax cap next year. Photo Credit: Meredith Shamburger

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – Irvington school officials said that if they want to maintain and develop a program of excellence, the time has come to exceed the tax cap.

“Now is the time for us to truly put our money where our mouth is — to draw a line in the sand and not sacrifice further,” School Board President Robert Grados said Tuesday.

The Irvington Board of Education debated cuts and how deep they should go in the 2013-14 school budget during its Tuesday night meeting. It provided a preliminary look at what officials are considering as the proposed budget is drawn up.

Rising pension contributions, health insurance and tax certiori settlements make this an “ugly year” for school districts throughout the state, Superintendent Kristopher Harrison said. Irvington expects to pay about $1.25 million more in state-mandated personnel costs next year and faces $3 million in tax assessment challenges over the next several years.

Officials discussed a preliminary proposal Tuesday for a $53.7 million budget, a 4.22 percent tax rate increase. That budget would include $500,000 in cuts, including potential new staff; the reinstatement of boys junior varsity field hockey and boys junior varsity lacrosse; and additions in special education services.

To remain within the tax cap, Harrison said officials would need to cut an additional $1.1 million. A cut of $2.57 million would be required for no increase in the tax rate.

An official proposal on next year's budget will be presented in March. Harrison asked for input from school board members and the community on what should be reduced in the budget and what should be preserved.

School board members said they would like to see additional cuts. However, officials and parents agreed that they would be willing to exceed the tax cap for the good of the district.

“If we're going to go over, let's just do it right,” parent Allison Waguespack said.

Further cuts to programs and curriculum would diminish the school district's reputation of excellence, Waguespack said.

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