Tuxedo BOE approves budget with a 1.69 percent tax levy

District borrows $922,000 from reserve funds to avoid a 9.97 tax levy; funds will be replaced with a $1.25 million Tuxedo Farms check

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  • George F. Baker High School in Tuxedo

By Nancy Kriz

— In a surprise move, the Tuxedo School Board adopted the district's $14.167 budget for the 2015-16 school year using $922,000 in reserve funds to keep the tax levy below the 2 percent tax cap.

The money would be replaced with funds the district is expected to receive from Tuxedo Farms, the forthcoming housing development that's expected to begin ground-breaking work shortly.

Now, the tax levy will be 1.69 percent versus the 9.97 percent tax levy the board had been expected to act upon during its April 23 meeting.

That new tax levy also means the district is no longer mandated to have a 60 percent voter approval. Only a simple majority of voters are is needed to approve it.

Up until that Thursday morning, at the time The Photo News went to press, district officials planned to present the budget with a 9.97 tax levy, well above the state mandated 2 percent tax cap.

Loss of students from Greenwood Lake

Officials said that high tax levy was a one-time event due to the shift of having a district only with Tuxedo students now that Greenwood Lake was no longer sending its students to Tuxedo's high school.

In prior weeks, the board had voted to keep Tuxedo as a K-12 district, despite Greenwood Lake pulling all its high school students out of the district.

Greenwood Lake students now must choose between the Warwick and Chester school district high schools for the fall.

But that night, Board of Education President Joanne Vernon announced the tax levy reduction, saying it was an innovative decision.

"This is something we've never considered doing before, but we believe in the program and we feel it's important for it to prove itself," said Tuxedo School District Superintendent Carol Lomascolo said this past Tuesday night. "The board was concerned that the budget wouldn't pass because of the super majority (needed). They have a lot of confidence in the program we're putting together for K-12 and they wanted to give it a chance."

Development will bring new students - eventually

On the first day the building permit is issued, the distinct is supposed to receive $1.25 million from Tuxedo Farms' developer. An additional $1.25 million would be given to the district on the first anniversary of that payment in additional to 40 acres of land.

Lomascolo declined, for the time being, to discuss the specifics of that financial arrangement.

Tuxedo Farms officials estimate the entire project will be completed by 2027, Lomascolo said, adding developers also estimate an additional 400 K-12 students will enter the Tuxedo district when all the housing units are built and occupied.

For this fall, the K-6 enrollment at George Grant Mason School is estimated to be 130 students, according to Lomascolo. The high school now becomes a grade 7-12 building with an estimated enrollment of 126 students, or about 25 students per grade level.

Jobs eliminatedThe district's adopted budget of $14,167,143 was down 11.08 percent from last year due to loss of revenue, including the Greenwood Lake student tuition.

The budget's details still include a reduction of 15 full time equivalent (FTE) positions affecting faculty, staff and administrative positions and a 1.6 FTE reduction in the general support area.

Lomascolo said keeping George F. Baker High School open also allows the district to revisit the conversion charter school option.

"We're not giving up on the charter," she said. "Even though it's been a difficult road, it allows us to potentially pursue this in the future because we're continuing to build a solid STEM Academy and that would be in place for a conversion charter school."

For the short-term, Lomascolo is hopeful voters will pass the budget.

"I'm not hearing as much (opposition) as I was hearing before," she said. "There was a lot of divide in the community and hopefully this will help to bring our community together. I think the program is solid. The board is backing the program in the hope that the community will come out and support it. "

Parent meetings for students in grades 7 to 12 were held last night, April 30, with district officials presenting the high school curriculum details.

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