Encourages All to Complete Surveys
By Jennie Acklin
ECS School Board members took a hard-hat tour of the construction progress on the school’s new addition ahead of its meeting on Tuesday, April 28. By the end of this week, most of the concrete floors will have been poured for all areas, including the gym, band room, locker rooms, chorus and the stage. The roof over the new areas is in the final stages of completion as well. (Look for a photo tour in next week’s edition of the Ellicottville Times.)
Many small details of the finish work are being discussed with teachers and board members. School Superintendent Mark Ward presented drawings of proposed exterior lettering signage, and possible lettering sizes along with suggestions for the eagle logo finish materials (3-D or metal finish). The various options will be detailed and reviewed further and the board will make a final decision in coming weeks.
During his report to the board, Ward explained that “this is the most important time of the year in our office, as the administration focuses on budget planning.”
The forthcoming ECS newsletter will be one of the largest issues to date at 28 pages. In addition to detailed information about the budget in advance of the budget vote on Tuesday, May 19 (1-8 p.m. in the Elementary School Foyer), it will include a four-page survey, and Ward “welcomes the community’s support.” Historically, the survey does not receive large return rates from the community, with most of the returns coming from students, parents and school staff. The board discussed ways to increase the survey return rate, and will make it available during the budget vote when staff will encourage voters to take a minute to fill out the survey or take one with them to fill out at home.
“I’d like to think we’re heading in the right direction,” as a school, Ward said, “but we need to have the surveys to confirm.”
2015 Property Tax Freeze Credit
According to a document provided to the board from Ward, “the 2014-15 NYS state budget established a property tax freeze credit for NYS homeowners for 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. The credit will be implemented as a rebate check based on taxes imposed by school districts and other municipalities that are subject to the property tax levy cap. The rebates for STAR eligible homeowners in each entity will be based on each entity’s compliance with the property tax cap, i.e., if the school district complies with the cap, the homeowner will receive a rebate for the school taxes.”
The school district property tax freeze credit is available to residential property owners who are eligible for a STAR exemption on their primary residence in the district and is only available if the district complies with the tax cap including exclusions. Eligible property owners will receive the credit via rebate checks issued by the NYS Tax and Finance Department in the fall of 2015.
In 2015, homeowners in a tax-freeze compliant district will receive the rebate credit equal to the greater of the following: the 2015-16 increase in school taxes OR 1.62% of the 2014-15 school tax bill. They will also receive the rebate they received in 2014.
2014-15 tax bill $2,100
2014 rebate $100
2015-16 tax bill $2,205
2015-16 Increase in taxes The greater of $105 OR 1.62% of 2014-15 tax bill ($32.40)
2015 rebate $105
Since the tax increase increase is greater than $32.40, the 2015 Rebate to Homeowners will be $100 + $105 = $205
Because the ECS tax increase will fall under the tax cap, STAR eligible homeowners will be fully reimbursed any increase in the 2014-15 and 2015-15 school taxes.
Going forward, Ward reported that Ellicottville will be participating in a multi-district plan with all of the Cattaraugus/Allegany BOCES schools that will achieve savings and efficiencies of 1% per year of the 2014 school tax levy. This will ensure that ECS STAR taxpayers will continue to receive rebates for any school tax increases in each of the three years starting in 2016-17.
In other business, District Treasurer Aimee Kilby described the importance of a Business Managers meeting that she attended in Cuba, NY. Premier Consulting Associates made the presentation to all schools involved with the Allegany Cattaraugus Health Plan (22 schools in two counties) to brief them on how the Affordable Care Act will impact school districts.
“This is a very involved project that ECS will be required to pay close attention to,” said Kilby. The number of hours that all full-time and part-time staff are working will be totaled over a length of time and will be used to determine who must be offered health insurance. Penalties will be assessed if certain percentage criteria are not met.”
Kilby said she would keep the board informed as more information becomes available.
2015-16 School Year Calendar Approved
The board approved the final version of the 2015-16 school-year calendar after discussing the Winter and Easter break split. In 2016 there are only three weeks between the February break and the Easter break since Easter falls in mid-March that year.