$53.1M OVER 15 YEARS: That’s how much consultants
say a merged Waterloo/Seneca Falls school district
By DAVID L. SHAW firstname.lastname@example.org | 0 comments
WATERLOO — Property owners in the Waterloo and Seneca Falls school districts would see a reduction in their school tax bills if the two districts merged in 2014-15.
However, the savings for a Seneca Falls school district property owner would be two to three times that of a Waterloo property owner.
That insight and other financial details were presented Thursday to the Waterloo-Seneca Falls School Merger Study Committee by consultants William Silky and Alan Pole.
The consultants prefaced their data by listing $177,458 in estimated savings from merger efficiencies. That includes things such as a single school physician, legal services, auditing services, a district clerk, a fiscal advisor and dues, among others.
They also said a merger could generate $17.4 million in incentive aid from the state over 15 years, assuming the merged district uses 40 percent of the incentive aid to offset taxes. The savings would start with $1.84 million in 2014-15 and drop to $184,165 by 2027-28 and zero in 2028-29.
Building aid would increase by $700,501, staff savings would amount to $35.4 million and efficiencies would be $2.66 million over 15 years.
Those savings would be partially offset by $327,245 in additional transportation costs and $2.8 million from “leveling up,” making salary adjustments for the sake of fairness.
Overall, a merger could save $53.1 million over 15 years, assuming 40 percent of incentive aid is used to reduce the tax levy.
The committee was told that without a merger, the Seneca Falls school budget is projected to be $25.47 million in 2014-15. The Waterloo school budget for 2014-15 is estimated to be $36.87 million.
Together the two budgets would total $62.34 million, with a tax levy of $24.13 million. However, Silky said a merged district would see $4.25 million in efficiencies and additional aid, bringing the levy down to $19.88 million.
Using a property assessed at $100,000, the consultants said a merged district could reduce school taxes anywhere from $270 to $609, depending on which town and which school district a property owner resides.
“The savings would vary, depending on the assessment,’’ Silky said. “But taxes would definitely go down under a merger.’’
At earlier meetings, the consultants said a merger also has the potential for expanded academic programs, more course offerings and other opportunities for students.
They also said some middle school students may spend slightly more time on a school bus than they currently do.
The committee also heard from Harris Beach Law Firm attorneys Philip Spellane and Laura Purcell on the impact of the Cayuga Indian Nation tax foreclosure and land-into-trust issues on a merger.
The Cayugas owns several properties in the Seneca Falls school district. They do not own any in the Waterloo district. The tribe does not pay property taxes on the properties they have acquired, other than when deed transfers take place.
Seneca County has gone to federal court to try and foreclose on the tribe’s delinquent properties. A federal district court judge ruled against the county, but the county is appealing that to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
The Cayugas applied to put 29 of its 1,110 acres into federal tax-exempt trust several years ago. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs returned the application as incomplete. The Cayugas have not resubmitted a revised application.
The committee was told that all unpaid taxes to due school districts, towns and villages are guaranteed by the county.
When the 20-member committee meets again April 25 in Seneca Falls, Pole said they will be given a final draft report and recommendations on the merger idea.
I was brought into this world without my consent,
and will leave in the same manner.