While optimistic that they can create a finalized budget beneath the 2 percent tax levy cap, Harrison school administrators said Wednesday night that they still need to find an additional $800,000 in savings this spring in order to do so.
Early numbers show a total spending plan at just under $105 million, a 1.8 percent budget-to-budget increase from a year ago. The tax levy, the portion of the budget paid by taxpayers, must be beneath $93.1 million in the final budget to stay beneath the cap.
Administrators still have until April to approve a final budget and indicated throughout Wednesday night's meeting that they intend to create a budget beneath the cap by that time.
"I won't say I'm confident we can do it, but we are committed to doing it," said Harrison Superintendent Louis Wool.
The Board of Education also vowed to maintain existing programs while maintaining class sizes, but said they will not be adding any new programs because of the constraints of the cap.
"We will not be expanding and building as we have in past years because we feel it is important to maintain what we have in place," said board member Joan Tiburzi.
Predetermined outside costs including teacher retirement system payments, health insurance costs and cuts in state and federal funding were cited as the biggest obstacles in staying beneath the cap. Those expenses alone would levy a 2.4 percent increase on taxpayers—busting the cap—if other savings are not achieved, said Harrison Assistant Superintendent for Business Robert Salierno.
To offset those costs the district has created just over $3 million in internal savings from last year's budget and will spend the next few weeks looking for the additional $800,000 in cost reductions.
Since property assessment numbers have not been finalized, the district did not release an estimated tax rate increase for the current budget. Recent trends would indicate that the tax rate increase will be more than the 2 percent tax levy because of declining assessments, but Salierno didn't want to speculate until those numbers are official.
The board announced Wednesday that it hopes to finalize a 2012-13 budget by April 11. A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on May 2, two weeks before it will go to a vote.
The district's $103.1 million 2011-12 budget increased taxes 3.18 percent, but would have been below the tax levy cap because the levy was less than 2 percent.
Harrison voters approved that budget with a 59 percent vote.