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Liberty voters approve $42.9 million budget, capital project

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On May 19, Liberty Central School District voters approved the district’s $42.9 million 2015-16 budget proposal, elected three board of education members and approved a $9.6 million capital project proposal that will address structural issues, energy efficiency and health and safety concerns at Liberty High School.


Voters approved:
        • A $42,981,805 budget for the 2015-16 school year that increases spending by 1.8 percent ($778,965) and carries a 0 percent tax levy increase: 328 yes; 160 no;
        • A capital improvement project not to exceed $9,597,050: 286 yes; 191 no;
        • Three candidates for three open board of education seats. Terms are three years, beginning July 1.
                    • Daniel Parkhurst: 342 votes;
                    • Jennifer Desrochers: 305 votes; and
                    • Karen Hook: 281 votes.

Administrators were able to maintain a flat tax levy – the amount of revenue raised through property taxes – for the coming school year through a number of spending reductions, lower costs related to retirement benefits and petroleum products, as well as a $1.4 million increase in state aid.

The district’s 2015-16 tax levy increase is below the district’s calculated tax levy limit of 2.36 percent, per the state’s property tax levy limit law. The law does not cap how much a district can raise through property taxes. Instead, it determines at what level a school district must have a supermajority (60 percent) rather than a simple majority (50 percent plus one) approve the budget proposal. Because the district proposed a budget with a tax levy increase lower than its allowable limit, the budget required a simple majority vote for it to be approved.

The $9.6 million Liberty High School capital project, which the board scaled down from an earlier $13.6 million proposal rejected by voters in October, includes a renovation of the high school’s building envelope, gymnasium bleachers and auditorium ventilation and lighting systems. Work is expected to begin in January 2017 and be complete by December 2018.

Following the October referendum, the Liberty Board of Education decreased the cost of the project by $4 million by working with the district’s architect and administration to determine which projects are the most critical and time sensitive.

The project is not expected to increase local property taxes. New York State building aid will cover 80 percent of the capital project’s costs. The district plans to pay for the remaining 20 percent with its capital reserve funds, or money that taxpayers previously authorized the district to set aside to use toward capital projects.

Visit www.libertyk12.org/budget to learn more about the 2015-16 school budget, capital project and newly elected board members.

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