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    Q: What are the district’s budgeting principals?

    • Educationally sound to maintain scope and quality programs
    • Equitable to ensure incremental resources are provided where needed to ensure similar outcomes at all schools
    • Fiscally responsible to remain under the tax cap, reasonable budget increases

    Q: Generally speaking, what does the budget look like this year? What is the budget-to-budget increase?

    Initially, the budget was in good shape and able to maintain all necessary programs and services while supporting a few strategic improvements and staying under the tax cap. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis is affecting our community and state finances, so the Board of Education reevaluated the budget and made a number of reductions. These include both personnel reductions and non-personnel spending cuts, as well as a one-student-per-elementary-classroom increase in class size. Even with these reductions, which totaled $1.8 million, our budget is still growing by $3.2 million, or 2.4 percent. Big drivers of the cost increases are the increase in minimum wage, contractual wage increases, higher health insurance premiums, and an increased number of higher-cost special education students.

    Q: Is the district staying below the tax levy cap? What will be the actual impact to the tax rate?

    Yes, the district is once again staying under the tax levy cap. Our tax rate increase will be under 1.5 percent, which is lower than the 2% originally projected. This will result in a $45 tax increase next year for a house valued at $150,000.

    Q: Will I be paying higher taxes as a result of the reassessment in the town of Henrietta?

    A reassessment does NOT mean the total taxes collected by the district will be higher. The tax levy (total taxes collected) has been established and is under the tax cap, this amount will not change. State law dictates that property taxes be apportioned based upon the fair market value of the taxable property. The town is conducting the reassessment to comply with this law and ensure that each property is assessed as close to market value as possible. Because the real estate market has been strong, and sales prices have been sharply rising, the town conducted the reassessment to stay abreast of the current market.

    Even though the reassessment will likely increase total assessed value more than 1.8 percent the district, by staying under the tax cap, will ensure that the average amount of taxes collected by taxpayer will increase no more than 1.8 percent. If a property is reassessed at a value higher than the average increase the taxes on that property may increase more but homes reassessed at lower than the average will see a lower tax increase. On average, a homeowner will see an increase of 1.8 percent. This means a house assessed at $150,000 will see an average increase in taxes of $45.

    The reassessment does not increase the total tax levy (amount of taxes collected). It only assures that taxes are apportioned on the fair market value of each house.

    Q: The tax levy is increasing more than 1.8 prcent. Why are average taxes only increasing 1.8 percent?

    New growth in the town is contributing new money towards the tax levy. This includes the new RG&E development off East River Road, the final addition of the VA hospital on Calkins Road, and new homes being built. These new properties are now paying taxes so a portion of the tax levy is funded by this new development rather than by existing taxpayers. As a result in reductions in state aid and sales tax sharing, local taxpayers are assuming a greater portion of the cost of schools. However, on average, taxes for existing taxpayers will only increase no more than 1.8 percent and possibly less.

    Q: How will spending reductions impact the overall program?

    We attempted to affect the students as little as possible. However, because more than 70 percent of our budget is personnel costs, there will still be some impact. At least two administrative positions will be cut. At the elementary schools, we will increase the average class size by one student per classroom. This slightly impacts our small class size initiative, but we still hope to retain the benefits of our traditionally small class sizes, which are among the smallest in the region. Other reductions include Teachers on Special Assignment, who deliver professional development to our classroom teachers, and some hourly support positions. We are also reducing equipment and supply purchases.

    Q: How does the budget situation impact the proposal to renovate Good Shepherd and install an artificial turf field at the Senior High School?

    Because of the COVID-related economic crisis and the potential impact on our community, these projects have been postponed this year. The Board of Education will reconsider them next year, taking into account the economic climate at that time.

    Q: What budget challenges is the district facing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?

    The recently approved state budget holds the State Foundation Aid for each school district at the same level as the prior year, despite ongoing increases in mandated costs. In addition, the district incurred a "pandemic" reduction of $1.1 million, which is hoped to be offset by additional federal funding. Furthermore, the governor now has authorization at three times throughout the state fiscal year to reduce funding to schools if the state budgeted revenues are short more than 1 percent from the budgeted amount. Therefore, the Board of Education made the additional budget cuts to prevent the necessity of mid-year program or service reductions if our state funding is reduced. 

    Q: When will the budget vote take place?

    As determined by the governor, through executive order, the budget vote will be by absentee ballot only. All ballots must be received by the district no later than 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 9. All households within the district will be mailed two ballots at the end of May. Only one ballot per eligible voter is to be returned. Each ballot must be in its own ballot envelope, which must be signed by the voter. Ballot envelopes can be mailed to the district in the postage-paid, return-mail envelope. All ballots must be received by the district by 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 9, to count.

    Q: What should a community member do if they have questions about the budget?

    Detailed information is available on the district website at https://www.rhnet.org/Page/33149. Any questions may be sent to Andy Whitmore at awhitmore@rhnet.org. Thank you for your interest!