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Johnsburg Central still trimming budget to stay under tax cap

Johnsburg Central School

Johnsburg Central School

— A change in the Johnsburg Central School District's insurance premium has upset the administration's preliminary spending plan for the 2012-13 school year.

Superintendent Michael Markwica anticipated an 11 percent premium increase, but the bump will actually be 12 percent.

That one-percentage-point change —amounting to $17,000 — would put the district's expected levy $3,245 over the state's mandated property tax increase cap.

That's how tight the district's budget is. For a sum equal to the price of a new touring kayak, the district has to tweeze more money from the budget in order to meet the cap.

Markwica suggested to the district board at its March 26 meeting that the $17,000 could be taken from a health insurance-related contingency fund. That fund covers the costs incurred when an employee unexpectedly elects mid-year to pick up the district's health-insurance plan.

No action was taken on the recommendation. He said that he's likely to make it part of his formal budget proposal to the board at its April 16 meeting.

Markwica told the board earlier in this year's budget process that Empire BlueCross BlueShield would raise premiums for the 31-school-district self-insurance pool that Johnsburg belongs to.

Recent premium increases for the pool had been extraordinarily low, especially when compared to the double-digit increases that have been routine for agencies and businesses that do not self-insure. In fact, Johnsburg's premium had not increased at all in each of the past two years. Three years ago, it edged up about 3.5 percent.

It's just more unhappy news for a district trying to protect its programs from an unrelenting, downbeat economic picture.

The district's finance committee on March 12 presented a proposed budget totaling $9.7 million, down from the $9.9 million plan approved for 2011-12. Under that plan, the estimated tax levy would be $5.3 million — $17,900, or 0.3 percent, more than last year's levy. Adding in the higher insurance premium would make the levy 0.67 percent higher than last year's levy.

However, the state's tax cap, which actually is a formula that can hold local governments to much less than 2 percent increases, restricts Johnsburg to a maximum 0.61 percent increase.

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