Shelter Island’s school board proposed a $10.9 million spending plan for the 2016-17 academic year that would require piercing the district’s state-imposed tax cap — making the system the fourth on the East End to attempt a cap override in the May budget vote.
Voters in Shelter Island, with about 222 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade, approved a $1.6 million bond issue 18 months ago to renovate the community’s single school building, replacing boilers and repairing brickwork. The first interest payment of $193,879 on that loan will come due next year.
Tim Laube, the district’s business official, said the extra expense of borrowing and other costs would push cash reserves to unacceptably low levels unless more revenue is found. That, he said, is driving the need to exceed the cap, which requires approval by a “supermajority” of at least 60 percent at the polls.
“The district has dipped into reserves for three straight years to cover expenses, and we’ll do so again,” Laube said. “Our reserves are getting about as low as I think the board is comfortable with.”
District officials said residents generally support district budgets. School Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik, now in his second year in that post, said after the meeting ended, “People living here are willing to do what it takes to make sure kids get the same opportunities students in larger schools have.”
Voting on school budgets and board members is scheduled May 17 throughout Long Island and the state. Cap limitations on school districts for 2016-17 are at unusually low levels because the cap formula is tied to low inflation.
Shelter Island trustees are expected to propose a budget of $10,966,854, down 0.219 percent from the 2015-16 spending plan. The current budget is $10,990,967.
Skuggevik said the decrease was caused by employee retirements that resulted in lower salary costs.
The district’s tax levy — that is, money raised through local property taxes — would rise to $10,000,816, an increase of 5.92 percent from the current $9,441,689. If Shelter Island were to stay within its cap, it would be restricted to a 2.17 percent tax-levy hike.
School administrators in some eastern Long Island districts have said this year’s tight tax cap put unusual strains on their budgets because they receive limited state financial assistance and are heavily dependent on local tax revenue.
Albany’s formula takes district wealth into account in distributing aid, and soaring East End housing values have had an impact in restricting state aid to the region.
Greenport’s five-member school board on Tuesday night voted unanimously to seek a cap override there. Board trustees in the Amagansett and Bridgehampton districts took the same action last week.