As a district, we have taken a cautious and conservative approach to our budgeting over the years, balancing the needs of children with the community’s ability to pay.
Last month the Hilton Board of Education approved the 2013-14 budget to be sent to the voters for their consideration on May 21. As a long-time community member and business executive, I continue to be impressed with work done by the district in responding to these difficult economic times. Each budget maintains a focus on its students while being rooted in long-term sustainability despite the economic challenges and costly mandates imposed by the state. Over the past seven years, the district has coped with an overall decrease in state funding. While the funding provided by the state increased this year, it was offset by massive increases in the mandated contribution rates to the state pension systems.
The Hilton Central School District has maintained a high level of fiscal discipline for many years now. Under the state’s property tax cap guidelines, a 5 percent tax levy increase would have been allowable for the 2013-14 school year. Our proposed budget for 2013-14 of $72.3 million represents a 3.5 percent increase over last year, and will result in an increase in the tax levy of 2.95 percent. The resulting impact on tax rates will be an increase of 1.5 percent, meaning our rates will continue to be lower than they were in 2004.
For the fourth year in a row, Hilton has the lowest cost per pupil in the county and thereby delivers outstanding value for our students and taxpayers. Just one example of this value is that Hilton became the FIRST school district in New York state to achieve the status of International Baccalaureate (IB) district.
As a district, we have taken a cautious and conservative approach to our budgeting over the years, balancing the needs of children with the community’s ability to pay. This has involved making difficult decisions each year, and not relying heavily on the use of accumulated reserves to balance our budgets. The percent that we have in reserves in relation to our budget is one of the lowest in Monroe County. We received strong validation of our approach this year when our bond rating was upgraded from A to AA, which enabled us to refinance our bonds from the 2001 capital project, saving us over $850,000 in interest during the remaining seven years of the debt. This serves as one example of the careful stewardship we exercise over the district’s funds.
I am proud of the work that is done in this district, both academically and financially. I encourage everyone to become informed about our budget and exercise their right to vote on May 21.
Dan Wellington is president of the Hilton Board of Education.