Tri-Lakes schools face higher taxes, deeper cuts than state average

Two school districts in the Tri-Lakes area are set to raise taxes at a higher rate than most other districts in the state, according to the latest property tax report compiled by the state education department.

School districts in Lake Placid and Tupper Lake both plan to raise their tax levies by about 4 percent. That's 1 percent more than the state's average school district increase of about 3.5 percent.

The Saranac Lake Central School District is an exception. It will increase its tax levy by less than 2 percent.

All three schools experienced reductions in state aid and had to make steep cuts to avoid even higher tax levy increases.

The Tupper Lake Central School District cut spending the most. It approved a budget with an unprecedented spending decrease of 2.6 percent. At the same time it will cut several staff positions, including its high school principal.

Spending in Saranac Lake will increase by just a half percent, but the school cut 16 staff positions, including several teachers and administrators.

The Lake Placid Central School District will boost its spending the most, with a 3.5 percent increase to next year's budget. Lake Placid is the only school district in the area to increase spending more than the state average of 1.3 percent. Still, the district was not able to avoid layoffs and program cuts.

The predicament facing schools in the North Country is similar to those in the rest of the state. In the face of a dramatic $1.2 billion cut in state aid, school districts throughout the state have been forced to slash spending even as they raise taxes.

But district superintendents in the North Country say rural schools that rely more heavily on state aid face even tougher budgetary choices.

Tim Kremer is president of the New York State School Board Association. He says schools are actively negotiating concessions with employee unions and finding ways to share services and cut administrative costs.

Kremer says, however, that as long as the state continues to reign in school funding, additional cuts will continue.

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