Hannibal Board Braces For More Cuts as Budget Talk Begins

Hannibal’s Board of Education will begin working on the next school district budget in  a few weeks.  They’re not hopeful about what the process will bring.

Board members said that they expect the state to provide no additional aid to schools this year and may impose another aid cut as part of the effort to reduce a $10 billion deficit in the upcoming state budget.

That will be enough to force cuts in jobs and programs for next school year, but it’s not the only problem.

A proposal to cap property tax increases at 2% has failed to move year after year in Albany, but “it’s going someplace this time,” said board member Donna Blake.

Governor Andrew Cuomo supports the cap and there is talk that the Democrats in the state Assembly will drop their longstanding opposition to the tax cap in exchange for rent control legislation for New York City.

Assembly leader Sheldon Silver denies the two issues are linked but has said he’s willing to consider the tax cap issue.

The 2% cap would mean that the district could not raise its local tax levy by more than 2% (or by the rate of inflation, if it’s lower than 2%) unless 60% of voters give the district approval to present a budget with a higher tax levy increase.

Hannibal only gets about 20% of its revenues from local taxes — about $6 million in the current budget.  The rest comes from state aid.

2% of that tax levy is about $120,000.

So, if state aid stays the same as in the current budget, the 2% property tax cap translates to an increase of about .4% in total spending in the next budget.  If state aid is cut, total spending will have to go down, and will have to make up for increases in routine items such as fuel, energy, food or salaries.

“If that goes through, we’ve got some real issues,” said Board of Education President Matt Henderson.  “You’ve got spending to reduce in a big way.”

The only way to achieve significant savings will be to cut programs and jobs.  The district just implemented a change in health insurance that will save some money.  It is beginning to negotiate new contracts with its unions, and board member Fred Patane said other districts are demanding zero-increase contracts.

The board holds its first budget workshop on Thursday, January 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school distance learning lab.  The public is invited.